Economic forecast: Major employers on union president’s radar

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Sam Lathem

Every American should only have to work one job, and that job should provide for a family. That’s why I’d like to see AFL-CIO unions organizing several of Delaware’s largest employers in 2015—Christiana Care and the credit-card banks.

I hope to unionize nurses at Christiana Care. I hope we can organize the janitors there. I’d like to see unions go after the credit-card-bank employees. And I would love to have a unionized hotel. We don’t have one in the state.

The governor and the Department of Labor will tell you we’ve recouped the jobs lost to the recession, but those recouped jobs do not grow the middle class. They don’t replace those manufacturing jobs we lost. We’ve never really recouped from those losses, and I don’t think we will. I just hope more will be done to grow the middle class.

You can get the Amazons and the Walmarts to come into Delaware, but those aren’t good-paying jobs. Some of them don’t even have benefits. The only way we’re going to get back our middle class is jobs—good-paying jobs. Nothing works without jobs.

We need to find a way to raise revenue to fix our state infrastructure. We support a tax on fuel—and the pain on consumers would be lessened now that fuel prices are low. I hope that legislators have the political will to support the fuel tax that will create good-paying jobs. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans want to jump out and do it. The only way it will get done is if they do it together, so one can’t blame the other for being tax-and-spend politicians.

Union labor helped do the repair work on the bridge at I-495. Union labor worked on the University of Delaware’s STAR campus and the new addition to the Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children. Union workers helped build the new Wilmington Hospital, and now our members are still on the job at the Delaware City Refinery.

Organizing isn’t easy in Delaware because it’s a business state—and it’s a small-business state, and small businesses are more difficult to organize. We can’t strike because employers can bring in replacements. We don’t have laws in place to make it easier to organize workers. We were hoping to get the Employee Free Choice Act passed, which would have allowed a union to be certified to bargain with an employer if union officials collected the signatures of the majority of workers. We didn’t get that.

We lost some of our members due to government cutbacks, and we know most of our future growth is going to be in the private sector.

We support legal immigration. There’s no doubt in my mind that Hispanic immigrants are going to join unions, and they’re going to demand a higher wage for what they do.

The Hispanic immigrants are being taken advantage of. That’s a historic pattern. Remember “No Irish Need Apply”? The Italians went through the same thing. African-Americans paid our dues assimilating into this country. Now, it’s the Hispanics’ turn. Every ethnic group that has come into this country has had that time when they were at the bottom rung. There’s no reason why we can’t make it.

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