Good News for Unions is Good News for Public Health

Last Friday a Wisconsin county Judge, Juan Colás, struck down much of Act 10, also known as the ‘budget repair bill’. The Act, which was proposed and vehemently defended by Republican Governor Scott Walker, passed in early 2011 and effectively eliminated the collective bargaining rights of public employees, setting ablaze an on-going saga of protests, recalls and court appeals.

In his 27 page ruling, Judge Colás declared the Act unconstitutional and while it was overturned only in regards to city, county and school district workers, not state employees, union leaders and public workers alike have hailed the decision.

What does this have to do with public health? Unions have long been advocates for health promoting conditions, from better working conditions and employee benefits, to higher wages and policies that benefit the middle and working class. Their ability to do this has in large part depended on their ability to collectively bargain.

In the context of sustained political attacks against workers’ rights, it is important public health professionals stand with the labor movement, both in celebrating its victories and in supporting its struggles.



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