Share your story
What has organizing a union meant for you? How have labor-management partnerships improved your business? We want to hear your story.
Maryssa Navarro - New York
As a LIUNA member, I'm not only able to do what I love but I'’m able to take classes and expand my knowledge which makes me more employable. I entered Local 17's apprenticeship in April of last year. I love learning new things like ground-mounted PV systems.
My journey has led me to a place where I have some peace of mind knowing that I can take care of my family. I hope I can show other women who want to be in the trades that anything is possible as long as you work hard.
Carlos Rivera - Colorado
Being a Pipefitters Local #208 member has offered me the skills to learn a trade that is necessary for the structure and function of our country and community. I was a part of the fabrication team that installed piping for the geothermal system at a major performance and event venue in the region.
Having the opportunity to pass down the knowledge of safety, excellence, and support to future generations has brought personal satisfaction to my life [and].... having the brotherhood and sisterhood through my union helps create solidarity on many projects that we are a part of.
Arinee Brinson - New Jersey
I entered my union at 22 years of age and although I am a young individual I have been able to start building up my own benefits for retirement which lets me know that the steps I am taking now will afford me stability in the future. The wage disparity that has plagued women in the workplace, more especially women of color has been challenged head-on by the core values and standards that unions uphold strongly by their members.
After entering [a union] workers will be provided with benefits that secure their future [including] the higher wages that we receive and benefits and access to health care. Coming from a family in trades, my mother being a union member, a single mother, and a woman of color, the union has provided for me throughout my whole life. I am grateful for the opportunity we have been granted as otherwise we would have never been living in such a fortunate situation today.
Mechelle McNew - Oklahoma
I am proof that equal opportunities and transparent equal pay makes SMART a place for all, no matter what your gender or ethnicity; the growth opportunities are unlimited!
I joined a Sheet Metal union shop when I observed the employees from that manufacturing shop coming through my bank teller line every Friday at 3:30pm with weekly checks that put my bi-weekly check to shame. I have since held local union offices of executive board member, shop steward, vice-president and am now holding the elected office of Business Manager/FST for going on 12 years.
My career growth did not stop there: I was appointed by SMART GP as First Chair of the International SMART Women’s committee, a team member of the Market Expansion Task Force where we work hand in hand with management to establish best practices for all of us on diversity, recruitment, retention and being trained and prepared for the work growth in the future. [I also serve] as the office of Treasurer for our new SMART Recruitment and Retention Council that focuses on what our trade needs to do to better recruit and retain and represent women and minorities.
I am Proud to be UNION!!
Emily Weintraut - California
I am an incredibly proud union member of UAW Local 2865, one of the largest unions covering academic employees in the US. When I decided to pursue a graduate degree, my main concern was the systemic abuse that is commonplace in academia. However, through our work organizing, my union has established historic anti-bullying and harassment protections that ensure workers the right to a safe, welcoming workplace. We also won huge wage increases, childcare benefits, and transit subsidies which ensure that academia will one day become an equitable place for all. My union has transformed my life and the lives of my coworkers, and I hope that by continuing to organize and improve conditions at our own workplaces, that other academic institutions will follow suit.
Aarthi Sekar - California
As an academic worker I have had the opportunity to contribute to important human genetics research. However in my workplace, myself and thousands of others have faced harassment and discrimination, inadequate pay, unsafe working conditions, and overall lack of support. Through organizing for the formation of our union SRU-UAW, I have had the opportunity to fight for the workplace that we deserve. This past year in 2022, 48,000 academic workers at [my unviversity] across four units went on strike at the same time to win new contracts and bring transformative change to our workplace. As academic workers we are the reason that the university produces groundbreaking research and is known for its high quality of instruction. We are workers that deserve adequate pay and fair working conditions and because of our union we have been able to win the protections and rights we deserve.
Katelynn Coney - California
Growing up in the foster care system as a child and the justice system as a young adult I never knew that I would be able to access the same opportunities as others. I used to tell my adopted parents that when I grew up, I was going to be a bus driver just to make them mad, because I knew they wanted me to go to college. Which I did, as a single mother, I earned a BA in Psychology and still decided public transportation was where I wanted to be. I started at [at my transit company] in 2015, right when they were starting their apprenticeship program through [my] college. I love the labor management partnership that they offer. This program has allowed me to master operations, become a mentor, and now one of the coordinators for the program. Having been homeless and addicted to drugs I always felt my glass ceiling was predetermined and set super low. I know realize the doors are always there you must be brave enough to walk through them.
Sarah LaBarr - Missouri
I'm a proud member of Actors' Equity Association since 2008. Being in a union provides me protections in the workplace... theatre can be a dangerous job, especially during a global pandemic! Equity hired top epidemiologists to determine the best safety protocols we would need in order to work as safely as possible. The provisions in our collective bargaining agreements keep me safe and those contracts protect me and my union siblings. I know exactly what to expect from my employers (producers) because of the protections that have been negotiated into the contracts. I also know that Equity will file a grievance on my behalf when needed, because they have! Being in the union means 51,000 people have my back, and I have theirs. In solidarity!
Javier Muro - Indiana
Being a Union member has helped my family get ahead in life. Getting paid a livable wage and having health benefits is a real life saver . Now my son is also a union member and is making a good living.
Lakeisha Preston - Mississippi
I believe forming a union would help with better pay and health coverage. I shouldn't have to live my life paycheck to paycheck living a hour and a half away from my job. With a union I would be paid by my line of business and my health coverage would be more beneficial for me and my son.
Bob Downey - Illinois
Union jobs are essential to building a strong country. The higher wages and job security that unions provide allow workers to pursue the American dream. It allows people to work with dignity and respect, and be treated fairly in the workplace. Union wages let you build a home, a family and send your kids to college.
Grady Mullins - Ohio
I have over 40 years in the IBEW and it has been a life changing experience for me and my family. I am now retired with a great pension; I can maintain the standard of living that I had when I worked. The Union provided me with good wages, benefits, and most of all protection from employers who hold the reins of your livelihood in their hands. My son has followed my footsteps into the IBEW, and I know that some day when he retires, he will be taken care of like me.
Patricia Greenwood - Florida
Being a teacher is difficult enough most days, but if it were not for the protections and advocacy of our union, teaching would be intolerable. From protecting planning time and duty-free lunch, to ensuring ALL bargaining unit members receive bonuses and raises regardless of their job title, our union has our back! In a time where teachers' reputations are being trashed and our professionalism and training are questioned at every turn, the solidarity and camaraderie I feel at union events-local, and state level-is a huge boost. Our union's strength is in its numbers. I cannot imagine NOT being a part of my union, my professional organization.
Barry Kushnir - New Jersey
I was a 22-year-old college graduate with a newborn son and a dead-end job. Picked up a union card and a new position as a public employee. Started earning a living wage, quality healthcare and earning a pension. It is 30 years later, and I have a newborn (my third child) and no regrets. My wages have grown, my quality healthcare has improved, and I can see a dignified retirement on the horizon. Nothing would have been possible without my union! That is why I continue to organize young workers and grow the labor movement. Anything and everything are possible when working people come together a fight for a good, middle-class lifestyle.
Nicole Fears - Georgia
Working for a small airline, I needed a voice and vote on my work site. I was able to purchase two homes while being employed as a card-carrying union member. As an ovarian cancer survivor, being a part of the union when cancer hit, I had insurance, and my family stayed afloat. My union already had me set up with tangible benefits to help me financially make it through. Unions are insurance when anything out of the ordinary happens.
Amy Banelis - Massachusetts
I work at a non-profit agency that provides day, residential and employment services for people with disabilities. My Aunt Mary received services there for 30 years. I saw the impact services had on my aunt's daily life. I organized a union with my co-workers for safer working conditions in our workplace, to have a united voice to advocate for ourselves and the people we provide supports to, an equal voice at the table to discuss wages, and a contract to protect us from unfair disciplinary action. I was illegally fired for forming this union. It was our union that stood beside me while I fought to get my job back. I won my job back and we won our union. Most of us work multiple jobs to put food on the table. We deserve more than barely surviving. We have provided direct care for clients during the pandemic. Many of us live with immunocompromised families. The risk of Covid has been a constant stressor. Having a union, has given us voice to discuss these concerns and to ensure the safety of all. We are negotiating our second contract. We are fighting for the equity and safety we deserve!
Izzy Landau - New York
I was wrongly fired from my job many years ago. My union fought tirelessly and got my job back. I have since become very involved with my union and have helped organize many workgroups. I strongly believe in work union, live better.
John Perry Dueitt III - Texas
I am a 52-year member of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local Union 450 in Houston, Texas. I joined the IUOE at age 20 as an equipment oiler for my four years of informal apprenticeship training. I then advanced to heavy equipment operator in the construction industry for the next 30-years before becoming a union organizer then business representative for the local, to apprenticeship coordinator and president of IUOE Local 450. I retired in 2015 and currently work as a part-time consultant for the IUOE Local 450 Apprenticeship. For most of the 52-years my family of eight enjoyed having the benefit of union health insurance and good wages and my wife and myself are enjoying our retirements that for the most part is afforded by my union pension. Being a union family has given us a security and a dignity that most non-union families never realized as being possible. I AM PRIVILEGED TO BE A MEMBER OF THE INTERNATIONAL UNION OF OPERATING ENGINEERS.
Marjan Pejkovic - New York
I came to the United States eight years ago from Croatia and found employment with a non-union construction company. Eventually, I met Steamfitters Local 638's lead organizer, Jim Sheeran Jr; I walked off a billion-dollar project to join Local 638, and worked as a steamfitter for five years, and felt honored to go to work every day knowing I had the union at my back, supporting me. For the last year, I have worked as an organizer with the NY Pipe Trades. I see this job as a calling, and an opportunity to support those who need to be organized, just as I was, so that they have a voice on the job and respect and dignity at work. Being an organizer is an opportunity for me to pay it forward to the next generation of Steamfitters and grow our union.
Steven ONeal - Idaho
My union affiliation began in high school, as a laborer at a potato processing plant. After college, I became a State Employee and joined the Service Employees International Union. Then, moving to federal employment, I joined the American Federation of Government Employees, with the BLS Division of the Department of Labor (and I'm still an active member in retired status). Labor unions are truly the "I've got your back" for workers. I have never regretted my membership, and recommend it for all folks who work for employers!
Christine Ball-Blakely - Washington
I am a public interest lawyer at a nonprofit organization, and my work is a huge part of my life. I recently helped unionize my organization in an effort to create a more equitable, respectful, and democratic work environment. I now serve on our bargaining committee and am helping to negotiate our first collective bargaining agreement. While some may think that "professionals" like me don't need a union, they are wrong. Everyone needs a union. We are now able to advocate for ourselves and each other without fear of retaliation, which has empowered us to improve our working conditions. Our collective bargaining agreement will lock in the things we like about our workplace and improve the things we don't. Critically, it will protect us from being fired without just cause. Our union gives us a voice in our organization and the ability to influence decisions. We choose to work at our nonprofit because we believe in the mission. Without us - the workers - our organization could not exist. We deserve to have a say in how it's run, and now we do.
John Durr - Texas
IBT Local Union 745 has made a world of difference! We now have the respect we deserve from the company. No more putting us against each other which was bringing a lot of animosity amongst the drivers! We have become one unit!
Ben King - Michigan
After I passed the bar, I was hired by a legal aid organization to represent low-income families in Detroit. My employer's mission was to promote access to justice for underrepresented populations and to fight poverty through quality legal representation. Many of my colleagues joined the organization because they agreed with the goals our employer sought to accomplish. There was an extreme dichotomy between our employer's mission and how it treated its employees. When we brought workplace concerns to our employer they were ignored. This was frustrating, especially, when our concerns impacted our ability to represent our clients. A small number of us decided to organize a union to help address these issues. We often met after work at Temple Bar in Detroit's Cass Corridor. Like many Detroiters before us, we discussed unionization and collective action over Stroh's beer. I gained so much through organizing. I gained a union-NOLSW Local 2320. I gained a career, my participation in organizing inspired me to pursue labor law and lead me to my current career as a union-side labor lawyer. And perhaps, most importantly, I gained a family. Those afterwork organizing sessions were the first "dates" I had with the woma n who become my wife.
Austin Coddington - Illinois
Being a part of IBT #710 provides me with knowledge and protection, and taught me dignity. I take pride in having a collective bargaining agreement. It gives us -- the workers -- a seat at the table to negotiate our wages, working conditions, health and welfare, along with a lot of other language in our contract.
Dejuan Anderson - Illinois
My name is Dejuan Anderson and I have been a proud member with local union 710 for about 7 years now. My union fights and keeps fighting for our rights and safe working conditions and I appreciate the effort and dedication it shows. Keep up the good work 710.
William Stone - North Carolina
I believe organizing a union was the only way that my co-workers and I would be able to come to work without having to worry about retaliation in the workplace. Also, we are able to collectively bargain our wages, benefits and health care instead of having to settle for what the company wants us to have. I look forward to going to work and making the money I know I deserve for my family and I, and the managers I work under are held accountable for their actions. Organizing has been a process, but I would not change it for anything -- the outcome has been well worth it. Having a voice in the workplace is awesome, thanks to the Teamsters and my brothers and sisters I work with.
David Montalvo - Illinois
Straight out of high school I started my life as a laborer in companies that were non union. I have always worked hard and with integrity but the pay and benefits never matched my dedication to the company. More was always expected and demanded by the companies without much change to pay or benefits. Once I began working for a company with a union I immediately saw the difference. My pay went up more than double for the exact work I did at a non union company, my benefits were great, and the dynamic of not being able to speak up without fear of punishment was gone. I still give my all to the company but now if there is an unreasonable expectation, a misunderstanding, or an unwarranted discipline I feel safe knowing that I have protection from the union through my contract and labor rights. To me, being part of a union doesn't mean I don't have to work hard, be responsible, or respect the company; being part of a union means that my hard work will be paid fairly, the company will also operate responsibly, I will be treated with dignity, and my family will have security.
Abel Santacruz - Illinois
Being part of the IBT (Local 710) has been one of the best decisions I have ever made in my young adult life. As a member I know that my work conditions, pay, retirement and health and wellness benefits will not be overlooked by the company and that my voice can have an impact to better me and my union brothers and sisters. We are stronger United and that is the only way to level the field and actually negotiate at the bargaining table in good faith. #ProudUnionHome
Jackie McGurn - New York
Having the opportunity to earn a wage while you learn and receive awesome benefits as a carpenter apprentice is amazing. It's financially reassuring when you're young and planning your future. I guess loving your job as a union carpenter is definitely a major plus too. Doing something you are proud of everyday is pretty neat. It's vital to take pride in your work and just remember when you choose a career in the trades, you have endless opportunities.
Matt Reber - Ohio
In March, 30+ coworkers and I went public with our desire to form a union at our workplace. Even though we've been enduring some delays from the employer's lawyers, we are not swayed. The whole process has been uplifting. We've formed a unique bond amongst staff and have built the solidarity that we know will come in handy when things start heating up. Proud of my coworkers and friends and ready for the next step with my union!
Salvador Herrera - Texas
Collective bargaining is the best way to fight back against race-to-the-bottom tactics that irresponsible contractors in the construction industry may use to maximize their profits. Wage theft and misclassification are major issues in the construction industry and among the trades. Misclassified workers do not get paid overtime for hours worked over 40 hours in a workweek and often find themselves to be victims of wage theft. Other issues are unliveable low wages, a lack of safety training and a lack of critical benefits like paid leave. Being a union member and collective bargaining are the best remedies to the issues workers face on a daily basis. When we stand together we can demand better conditions and benefits.
Leslie Cotton - Illinois and Washington, DC
Being in the trades has uplifted my life. I have an actual learned skill with the ability to teach others that same skill; this is something no one can take away.
U.S. Department of Labor links:
- Over 60 million Americans say they would join a union if they could, but many don't know where to begin. Hear from one union member about his organizing experience.
- Many workers in the southern U.S. are paid some of the lowest wages and can face dangerous working conditions. With strength in numbers, collective bargaining can help improve working conditions
- By sticking together and using their collective voice, workers in many industries can unionize.
- Hear directly from Cristina Barillas, a Chicago plumber and Plumbers Local 130 UA member, about her experience in the plumbing industry.
- In this Century Foundation report, a construction worker, a barista, a charter schoolteacher, a forklift operator at a warehouse and a hospital aide explains how their union gave them a stronger voice in their workplace.
Any links to non-federal websites on this page provide additional information that is consistent with the intended purpose of this federal site, but linking to such sites does not constitute an endorsement by the U.S. Department of Labor of the information or organization providing such information. For more information, please visit https://www.dol.gov/general/disclaim.