Five Ways America Would Be Different Without Labor Unions

This post originally appeared at

On Labor Day, we come together to thank all the American workers who built this great country—and to recognize the millions who wake up every morning to build us an even better future. There’s one group that deserves a special thanks: America’s labor unions.

Here are five ways America would look different without labor unions:

1. Weekends as we know them wouldn’t exist: Union strikes in the early 20th century led to the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which created federal worker protections like the 40-hour workweek. With these new rules on how much employers had to pay—and on how many hours employees should be expected to work—weekends off became the norm.

So, if you enjoy getting home early enough to have dinner with your family or watching football on Sundays, you have unions to thank.

2. Children would still be working in factories: For most of our history, there were no federal regulations on child labor. And during the Industrial Revolution, that meant instead of going to school, young boys and girls were often forced to work in factories for long hours—with heavy, dangerous machinery.

But in 1832, New England unions first took a strong stand against children working, marking the beginning of a century-long, union-led fight to regulate child labor. Unions throughout the country eventually joined the movement, lobbying for minimum age laws and hour restrictions. And in 1938, this union-led fight resulted in the first federal regulation of child labor, which ensured that when kids did work, the work would be safe and wouldn’t interfere with schooling.

3. Wages would be lower: Unions are on the front lines fighting for rights like a minimum wage, paid sick leave and overtime pay—and research shows the sheer presence of unions also leads to higher wages for Americans. This means that when unions negotiate higher wages, they aren’t just improving quality of life for their membership—they’re setting a higher wage standard for nonunion workers as well.

4. Far fewer people would have health insurance: In the 1930s and ’40s, labor unions came together to fight for health care coverage from employers, leading to a huge boom in coverage. This laid the groundwork for more expansive health care laws, like the Affordable Care Act, which have brought millions of American workers the health coverage they need.

5. We might not have Social Security and unemployment insurance benefits: Union advocacy was a critical force in passing the Social Security Act of 1935, which created Social Security and established unemployment insurance for union and nonunion workers alike. These benefits are one of the key ways we keep people out of poverty in America and had it not been for the work of unions in the early 20th century, they might never have come into existence.

Donald Trump likes to say, "I, alone, can fix it," but the success of unions is living proof that America is always stronger together.

Hillary Clinton understands this, and she believes that "when unions are strong, America is strong." That’s why she’s fought for working families throughout her political career—and it’s why she’ll support workers in the Fight for $15 and a union, fair scheduling, paid sick time, retirement security, workplace safety and benefit protection when she’s president.