Trade unions can play a very critical role in promoting social justice. In fact, it can be argued that the main reason as to why trade unions exist is to promote social justice. Of course, if you ask the trade unionists, as well as the members of the trade unions, they will tell you that the unions exist to fight for workers’ rights. And that is indeed what they do. But then, you see, by fighting for workers’ rights, they end up inevitably (and one would say inadvertently) promoting social justice. But it is also possible for the trade unions to be neutered. It is possible for the trade unions to be infiltrated by capitalist interests. The end result would be where we have trade unions that don’t actually fight for the workers’ rights. Those would be, by extension, trade unions that don’t promote social justice. In the worst case scenarios, we can actually end up with trade unions that work directly against the workers’ best interests’!
When all is said and done, if trade unions are to be effective in promoting social justice, they need to be:
- Empowered through the law: this is where, for instance, we would need to have legislation that makes the trade unions to be strong. Also critical is legislation that makes it easy for workers to join the trade unions. Even workers who are employed on short term basis should have the opportunity to join trade unions. For instance, a person who has gotten a temp job at a firm like, say, Walmart should have an opportunity to join a trade union. After all, notwithstanding the fact that he has been hired on short term basis, he would be allocated a Walmart One account by the company. And to the extent that he qualifies to be allocated a Walmart One account, he would surely also qualify for trade union membership…
- Led by men and women of integrity: the trade unions that are infiltrated by capitalist interests are usually those that are led by people of questionable integrity. Therefore, by having the trade unions led by men and women of great integrity, you improve their efficacy at promoting social justice.
- Managed by people who have the right advocacy skills: we have often seen trade unions fail due to poor advocacy skills. Therefore, if trade unions are to be effective in the promotion of social justice, they need to be managed by people with the right advocacy skills.