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By Edward M. Smith: The Argument for Unions in 3 Op-Eds

January 30, 2024

Edward M. Smith was a student of labor history, a passionate learner who understood that the movement’s achievements might be taken for granted over time. He believed that it was a labor leader’s duty to remember the struggle and remind the public of the role unions play in promoting the common good. To that end, he spoke out frequently and energetically about issues and policies that threatened to undermine the gains made by organized workers.

Often, this advocacy took the form of an op-ed or column in mainstream publications. For many readers unfamiliar with unions and their impact, Ed’s pieces provided a welcoming introduction and persuasive insight into how unions protect society-at-large.

In honor of his recent passing, we’ve compiled some pieces published by Ed Smith in the past year. We invite you to read or reread these articles as a reminder of what’s possible when workers unite and advocate for the common good.

A workplace shouldn’t be hazardous to anyone’s health

In a post commemorating Workers Memorial Day, Ed reflects on the role that unions have played in keeping workers safe on the job. He argues more can be done to protect workers, especially those without unions, the working poor, migrants, and children. He writes, “At the heart of the issue is whether our nation will show that it truly cares about the victims of deadly and dangerous work. We have the ability to give workers the power they need. Strong laws and their enforcement are effective, as are workers empowered by a union.” (May 1, 2023 in Chicago Sun-Times) Read the op-ed

Artificial intelligence is making the union movement’s case–and even ChatGPT knows it

It’s unclear how artificial intelligence will affect workers in the long-term. However, Ed Smith is certain of one thing — the role that unions will need to play in advocating for equitable policies. Calling for a “just transition,” Ed argues that unions have always been instrumental in new technologies are deployed for the common good. “If workers have a strong, united, and collective voice through unions, we will be equipped to harness future technologies to benefit working people and society at large, not only corporations seeking ever greater profits,” he writes. (July 20, 2023 in Fortune) Read the op-ed

Labor’s message to corporate America: Time to pay up

In a column celebrating Labor Day, Ed comments on the “hot labor” summer of 2023, a period during which millions of workers went on strike to protest the stagnation of worker’s wages and benefits even as their employer corporations achieved record-breaking profits. He concluded: “Without working people, there would be no UPS, no Disney and no Big Three automakers. It is their labor that makes these companies work.” (September 4, 2023 in The Hill) Read the op-ed