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NATCA 2020 Scholarship President’s Award Winner Brian Henn

Congratulations to NATCA’s 2020 Scholarship Program President’s Award winner Brian Henn. Scholarship applicants this year were asked to write an essay addressing this question: “How would you encourage your peers to get out the vote in the 2020 election?”

Here is Brian’s essay:

The electoral tradition has been a cornerstone of American society for centuries, dating back as far as the first nascent governments of the thirteen colonies. For so long has this dedication to equality of opportunity endured in American society, that it has been ingrained into our very mythos. By preserving the individual’s agency in governance, the electoral process has evolved to become an almost holy act. It is the very realization of the equally important American ideals of self-determination and equality of opportunity.

Labor unions are the manifestation of these democratic ideals in the workplace. The presence of a union is a democratizing force, allowing the individual to bargain collectively and in confidence for not simply wages or benefits, but for a better standard of living overall. The importance of unions in American history is a highly understated fact. American unions and pro-labor legislation have aided the workers of the republic for over a century, bringing about egalitarian reforms that introduced many aspects of the modern workplace, such as the weekend, the eight hour workday, and workers compensation.

Despite these achievements in democratizing America’s workplaces, the rate of union participation has decreased drastically in the last decades. This trend is especially prevalent in the private sector, with unionization percentage rates dropping to the single digits. Similar trends are being reported in voting rates of people my age, with the lowest age bracket consistently scoring the lowest voting rate by age.

By participating in the election, one is not simply exercising their political agency or individual rights but are directly affecting the lives and livelihoods of their friends, family, and co-workers with their vote. Neglecting to vote forfeits this agency, the control guaranteed to all citizens willing to cast their ballot.

Unions, like democracies, are rather fragile entities, but with enough support, they become stable, equalizing forces able to benefit the lives of all who participate. That is why voting this November is imperative, no matter the candidate. The act of voting effectively makes one a member of a nationwide bargaining unit, with elected officials being the negotiators. As previously stated, choosing to vote is not a selfish act, but also betters the lives of every citizen, much like how a union betters the lives of the members.