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Read NATCA Scholarship Winner Alex Valentine’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.

Alex Valentine, child of Sharon Valentine (New York Center, ZNY) is among this year’s 20 scholarship winners. Below is the essay that Alex submitted.


A king cannot exist without his people. He must represent their well-being, for the condition of a greater mass reflects his success. A group cannot function within a power imbalance as the discordance between the people and their representatives can only result in the abuse of power and ultimate downfall. An equilibrium must be achieved. The collaboration between a community brought together by the need to overcome injustice, and the people they may work for is essential for a group’s successful development. It is mightily more impressive to empower thousands than a single individual, as power resides in the unstoppable force of numbers.

The relationship between big American corporations and their workers was strenuous before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The first American Industrial Revolution proved the importance of labor unions and how their success became a leading factor in America’s rising advancements. However, as corporations started to work through loopholes and find new ways to abuse their workforce for profit, the American working class suffered alongside the economy they upheld. COVID revealed the overlooked practices of companies like Amazon and Starbucks, as basic safety and human rights were violated. Masks, sanitation, social distancing, and other essential COVID prevention methods were limited if addressed only partially. The complaints and pleas from workers were thwarted by purposeful confusion, exhausting patience, and intimidation. Similar to the aggression faced by the first unions during the Industrial Revolution, unionizers like Christain Smalls were arrested for practicing their civil right to gather and speak up for more humane conditions. This generation of working-class Americans realized that their future, and their children’s future, were in danger if they did not unionize for better conditions.

America thrived when labor unions existed. The downward trend of labor unions has led to the weakening of the American economy. This realization came to fruition when exploitations revealed during COVID were impossible to ignore. Unionizers grabbed the attention of those in power to enact change and demand immediate action. Much like the muckrakers and journalists during the 1960s, unionizers utilized the internet’s reach and social media’s influence to promote their message and bring it to national attention. Americans were tired of struggling with COVID and desperately needed solutions.

We are determined to make policy or lifestyle changes to ease our suffering. Regardless, the practices of large corporations were pushing against the simplest of policies and worsened conditions for their workers. However, if humanity is anything, it is persistent and unyielding to life’s challenges. Neither a global pandemic nor inhumane working conditions can halt the innate human desire to help one another. If the beauty of today’s America is the result of our first labor unions, we can only imagine what these developing labor unions can do to brighten our future.

America is a reflection of its people, and it thrives when its people thrive. Therefore, an economy where companies and labor unions work to support each other through hardship is vital in continuing the success and pride of America. Change is always on the horizon, but COVID and how it highlighted existing issues and brought communities together became the final push toward action.

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