Washington State, the Democrats, and Labor: A Union Member’s Perspective

The following is a short interview with Monika Warner, who is the PASS WA3 Chapter President and leads the WA3 Legislative and Organizing Committees. She is also a member of the 31st LD Dems.

1. What union do you belong to?

I have been a part of the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists (PASS) since 1998, and was previously a member of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW)

2. How has membership in your union benefited you/your family?

My union membership has made me a stronger person from day one. I joined the union to have a voice in a key vote and to challenge workplace problems. My candidate won the election by one vote. We went on to fix our unfair work assignments, and compensation for overtime and night differential pay.

I joined the union to be part of the collective voice for equality and change. There was never a time that I wanted a “free ride” while others paid my way. I could not accept others choosing my work schedule, my union leadership, or voting on my pay and benefits. I believe in “paying back” my union for the job security and working conditions that I have been blessed with and “paying it forward” for recruitment drives, negotiated agreements, and legal challenges to come.

I also volunteered for a union steward position. I wanted to help people be treated fairly and to develop myself as a leader. The union has always supported my personal development and growth as long as I was willing to volunteer my time. As a junior technician in the aviation industry, I would not have advanced as quickly if I had waited on my employer to give me a chance. I have relied on my union achievements to show my capacity for commitment and performance. My family has enjoyed a good middle-class living standard for many years.

I believe in giving voice to injustices that I cannot accept for myself and for others. I strive to teach others to use their voice as well. People matter. Workers create all wealth and should be treated with respect and rewarded for their efforts. High morale stimulates and sustains productivity. Mistrust and poor treatment will tear apart the individuals and the workforce.

3. What are some top labor issues that you feel Washington State needs to address?

Washington need to address its commitment in labor education, income inequality, and social justice.
Labor education MUST be taught in high schools for the developing workforce. This education links to both social studies through studies in organizing and problem solving and also in economics through studies on productivity, living wage, and denouncing  trickle down lies for once and for all. Students must also understand that there are more attainable and realistic leadership positions in unions than there are in the glorified corporate work and that unions are willing to train and mentor he next generation of leaders.

Washington must further commit to the Washington State Labor Education and Research Center (WA LERC) for their ongoing efforts to service 529,000 union members in our state. After being created as a line item in the state budget nearly 30 years ago, the financial commitment to the LERC has remained the same. Can any of us afford to live on our pay rate from 30 years ago? Through labor education, true gains can be made for employers. employees, and our overall economy in Washington by building stronger unions. Higher union density will result in higher pay, better recruitment and retention, higher productivity, and lower turnover. We could have a higher tax base and more purchasing power. The rich will still get richer, but the workforce MUST reap rewards for creating that prosperity.

The LERC and Washington labor unions are strongly engaged in creating a climate of social justice in the workplace. The founding principle that “an injury to one is an injury to all” must be our North Star. Pay inequities are not okay. Discrimination, bullying, and harassment is not okay. Higher sick leave use, high turnover, and low morale are damaging to any company and are the result of a these cancers in the workplace. Union provide a safe training grounds for leadership development in holding meetings, organizing events, networking, lobbying, disagreeing respectfully, and building collective power. These skills can be utilized on the job as well as in our communities.

4. How would you like to see local Democratic organizations better support labor?

The local Democratic organizations can support labor by promoting labor education in high school and through increasing LERC funding. The organizations need to understand that our unions recruit, accept, and support the “whole person” not just the 8-hour worker. Much of the union work happens after hours and we must recognize and adapt to the challenges of volunteers just as the Democratic organizations do.

The Democratic organizations should also take the opportunity to attend the Emerging Leaders Conference and other trainings to fill the room so we are not always “reinventing the wheel” on material that is already developed and available for pennies on the dollar by mixing our activist audiences.

We must all understand that there are overlapping circles of influence and opportunities to “show up” for one another at key moments in strikes and rallies, even if just to bring coffee or treats. We must communicate and share each other’s issues and challenges on facebook and in our social groups to pressure targets. Through these strategic relationships we can build influence and create real change in a very short amount of time in Washington State.