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Read 2023 NATCA Scholarship Winner Skylar Albright’s Essay

Every year, NATCA offers a scholarship program for spouses, children, stepchildren, and legally adopted children of active, retired, and deceased members in good standing for at least two consecutive years. This scholarship is for full-time attendance at accredited colleges and universities within the United States and its territories for an undergraduate degree program.

This year’s prompt asked candidates to examine why labor unions are experiencing a resurgence and what implications this has for the future.

Skylar Albright, child of retired members Thomas Albright (Miami Center, ZMA) and Kimberly Albright (Asheville ATCT, AVL), and brother of Chase Albright (San Juan Center, ZSU), is among this year’s 20 scholarship winners. Below is the essay that Skylar submitted.

Recent polls show that the approval ratings of labor unions in the United States are at their highest since 1965. But first, what are labor unions? They are organized associations of workers, often in a trade or a profession, formed to protect and further their rights in the workplace. So, why has there been a resurgence of labor unions?

Local “Mom and Pop” establishments have minimal employees and are able to provide benefits and “perks” that large companies cannot. They see their employees as family and treat them as such. Hometown stores and shops are able to communicate with their staff when issues arise without affecting large amounts of people.

Companies such as Starbucks, Amazon, Walmart, and even congressional staff employ a massive number of people, and these employees need labor unions. Large companies such as these believe their employees to be expendable and can easily be replaced if they don’t agree with the benefits, hours, wages, or beliefs that don’t align with their philosophies. American workers have begun to organize to protect their rights and prevent corporations from taking advantage of them. They want to be heard.

Unions act as “watchdogs” to prevent companies from adjusting wages, hours, or benefits without some say from the employees. In the past few years, safety within the workplace, especially with the COVID pandemic, has been greatly scrutinized by unions. Along with the normal safety precautions of good working conditions, fire precautions, and overall protecting the wellbeing of employees, the union had to negotiate with the companies to provide as much protection to the employee as possible. There were companies that placed production above the health of their employees. Labor unions demanded that the employees be provided with masks, thorough cleanings of facilities, and adjusted schedules to minimize contact with other employees. When employees of one company saw that other companies had to negotiate with labor unions, the resurgence of labor unions began and has continued until it is at a new high.

My grandfather was in the Laborers and Hod Carriers Union, my uncle and cousin are in the IBEW, and my father, mother, and brother are all members of NATCA. I have been exposed to labor unions my whole life and I have heard many stories of how they have protected their rights over the years. When people hear of these unions going to Washington, having conventions, introducing new contracts, and protecting established ones, they too want to be involved. Employees want to be protected from the unwanted tactics and decisions that the large conglomerate of corporations often make, and they have found that labor unions are the way to do it. Therefore, labor unions have had a resurgence and I believe it will continue in the future thanks to the American workers.

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