I enforced workplace laws in New York State for the better part of two decades, and this case stands out to me, because it so clearly exemplifies why all of us should care about workers’ rights. When people have bad working conditions and no voice on the job, it’s obviously bad for them. But the impact of rotten jobs — those with low pay, long hours, bad treatment, or no worker voice — radiates far beyond the workers themselves. Other people’s rotten jobs affect our collective health, safety and well-being.
We should care about workers’ rights as a matter of social justice and basic humanity. These powerful and varied ripple effects suggest that everyone — not just low-wage workers or union activists — has skin in the game when we talk about raising the minimum wage or passing paid sick leave laws or making it easier for people to join a union. When new laws are considered, labor shouldn’t be seen as one more special interest group. It benefits all of us if the people doing essential work throughout our economy have good jobs, a collective voice and dignified treatment at work.