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Read Scholarship Winner Lauren Gutshall’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.

Lauren Gutshall, child of David Gutshall (Atlanta Center, ZTL) is among this year’s 20 scholarship winners. Below is the essay that Lauren submitted.

If you had a crystal ball and were able to predict the future, would you join a union? My answer would be a strong “yes” for multiple reasons. I’ve seen firsthand the role that NATCA has played in my father’s career as an Air Traffic Controller. He has been an active union member for over 20 years and has educated me on the benefits of membership. Historically, unions have improved the lives of workers, supported a better work environment, and increased wages, benefits, and job security. Several factors have contributed to the increased awareness and resurgence of unions: the Covid-19 pandemic, workers questioning their work/life balance, the current political climate and heightened media coverage.

Change is something most workers experienced as a result of the Covid-19 Pandemic. Many workers in the past few years saw a shift in their work environment. Workers were thrust into a situation where they were considered “essential workers”. Others were forced to work at home for an extended period of time. During this tumultuous time, people reevaluated their lives and the role their job played. The essential workers realized the value that they had within their organizations and wanted to be compensated for their sacrifices. These groups turned to unions to help negotiate with employers to secure better working conditions, higher wages, and benefits. Unions help ensure that workers are not exploited and that they are treated fairly. Now more than ever, people want representation, and a union is a great way to be heard.

The current workplace environment has left many workers dissatisfied with their wages and benefits. Prices are going up in every aspect of life. The cost of healthcare and other benefits has continued to increase and yet, wages have not. One of the most significant benefits of unions is the power of collective bargaining. By negotiating as a group, unions can often achieve better results than individual workers negotiating on their own. Additionally, unions can negotiate contracts that provide job security, which is particularly important in today’s economy, where layoffs and restructuring are common. A unified voice can lead to greater income equality, increased pay and improved working conditions.

The present-day political climate and media coverage are additional reasons that unions are seeing a resurgence. President Biden and his administration support and encourage labor unions. Companies such as Walmart, Amazon, and Starbucks have seen increased efforts from their employees to form unions. The media continues to bring attention to this changing corporate culture.

Unions are a positive and essential tool for protecting workers’ rights and improving working conditions for our future. By working together, union members can ensure that their voices are heard and that their rights are protected. As the economy and the nature of work continue to evolve, unions will need to adapt. It is my hope that unions will continue to help create a more equitable society for all. Thank you NATCA for leading the way and providing a collective voice for years to come.

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