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Op-ed: Unions Make a Difference for Families, the Economy

For many generations of immigrants and working class families, Malden and Medford represented opportunity. A region where hard work was rewarded with a modest living, an affordable home, and a shot at a brighter future. 

Now that the area is changing and new development is coming in, many are wondering how Malden and Medford can continue to ensure every day families have a home, and opportunity, here.

The best way to do this is through unions. Labor unions carve a pathway to the middle-class, providing good wages and benefits that allow workers to support their families and purchase homes and other material goods that help the local economy.
If you go back decades, unions set the standard for fair wages and benefits. Think of the Pullman train porters and coal miners, for example, who fought for the right to fair compensation. Unions also gave workers the weekend, otherwise known as the right to a 40-hour week.

Today Malden and Medford are home to labor movement leaders, including the Massachusetts AFL-CIO and the Massachusetts Building Trades Council. These organizations represent hundreds of thousands of men and women across the state, including many of our own members in Insulators Local 6. 

Labors unions like ours are setting the standard for family-sustaining wages and benefits. We guarantee pay equity, ensure safe worksites, and provide 21st century skills training. We also ensure that the men and women who are building the city’s future can also be a part of it. 
It’s no coincidence that as union membership declined in the U.S., income inequality has skyrocketed. Big business has been able to hold workers’ wages artificially low for decades. They’ve also eliminated retirement security, and chipped away at healthcare benefits. The result is what we have today: families that work full-time, but don’t earn enough to live a halfway decent life. 

In Local 6, we ensure that hardworking men and women are compensated fairly for their skill and expertise. Our members earn industry-leading wages and benefits so they can lead middle-class lives and provide for their kids and grandkids. This creates strong families and communities that drive the economy forward, including here in the region. 

As Malden and Medford look to the future, it’s imperative that labor unions play a leading role, so that the generations who made these cities great continue to have a place here, and new residents find opportunity too. 

Jim Lister, Business Manager / Financial Secretary 
International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers, Local 6