What do Unions Do?
Advocate for Social and Economic Justice
The gains working people make at the collective bargaining table are strengthened by good laws that protect against exploitation. Corporations use laws to increase their profits by weakening working people’s rights and safety. The legacy of strong unions has led to weekends, overtime pay and the end of child labor. That’s why union members continue to raise their voices to be heard from the worksite to the White House.
We are a watchdog for working people. See how your elected leaders voted on bills important to working people.
Join with us as we build an economy that works for the 99%.
We Balance the Power of the Wealthy
The effects of corporate greed are disastrous. Our economy works best when corporations act responsibly toward their employees, their customers, the environment, and local communities. Yet, too many corporate CEOs choose management strategies for short-term gains that undermine their companies in the long term.
The AFL-CIO works to change anti-worker corporate practices through shareholder advocacy.
We’re the watchdog of runaway CEO pay and its effect on economic inequality.
We hold corporations accountable by advocating for well regulated capital markets, how mutual funds impact executive compensation and provide tools for unions and community activists to conduct their own corporate research.
We host Common Sense Economics trainings, so working people better understand how the rules of the economy are broken and can change.
Voice of the People
Unions give a unified voice for all working people by advocating for legislation and regulations that keep us safer, healthier, and enjoying a higher quality of life. Many union members are politically engaged. We advocate for the public servants who will best serve the interests of working people at all levels of government. Together, we are re-writing the rules of the economy, so they benefit the 99% instead of the wealthy few.
We also advocate for an expansion of voting rights. We need to make participatory democracy easier and stop the racist laws that keep all people from accessing their right to vote.
When we fight, we win. Working people made recent gains for transit, infrastructure and education investments. One state and three municipalities enacted fair scheduling requirements last year. In 2016, seven states, the District of Columbia and 13 localities approved minimum wage increases through legislation, ballot initiative, administrative decision or executive order. Three states and 11 localities approved paid sick leave.
Increasing Economic Opportunity
Too many working people can’t get ahead and it’s not for a lack of trying. There are many forces working against people getting a fair return on their hard work. Working people coming together in unions is the best way to increase wages in America. The labor movement increases economic mobility for all.
We enforce the rights that keep workplaces free of discrimination.
Working people pay taxes to make sure that the social contract will be there when they need it. Working people deserve to have the benefits they paid for, including Social Security and Medicare, when they need them.
We advocate for working people who lost jobs through offshoring or other corporate greed.
We fight for income equality. How much a person is paid shouldn’t be based on race, gender, creed, sexual orientation or nationality.
We train for the future and protect the public workforce development system that provides job search and training-related services through the Workforce Investment Act.
Union members negotiate for labor management partnerships that invest billions of dollars in the upward mobility and career development of good union jobs.
All working people should be able to earn a living wage. We advocate for raising the minimum wage. If people working full time jobs still need government assistance to get by, they're not the ones leeching off the government. Their employers are.
The informal economy keeps many workers in the shadows and leads to exploitation. Wage theft is a major problem in some industries, and unions and our worker centers help make sure everyone gets the pay they were promised for the work they do.