Robin Stepanek (Feb. 9, Letters, "No union for private sector; public employees owe them a thank you") has it backwards.
Working people should thank the labor unions for many things we take for granted today: the 40-hour work week, overtime pay, vacation pay, sick days, workers compensation and a living wage. Remember that union workers fought and died for these basic rights back in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Read your history.
If it weren't for labor unions negotiating decent conditions, which raised living standards and enabled the middle class to exist, non-union wages would be much lower than they are now as well.
The fact is that ever since Ronald Reagan began his war on the middle class, union representation has greatly diminished, and along with it the average wages of most Americans. And to answer the inevitable charge that union wages have driven jobs overseas, keep in mind that Germany, only recently displaced as the number one exporting country by China (with its 1.3 billion population and sweatshop labor), has high-paying unionized jobs with benefits that make those of our unions look stingy by comparison. It used to be that decent health care, vacation time and retirement benefits were considered a basic right of working Americans; they still are in the other industrialized democracies (which also have universal healthcare and less concentration of wealth). It is very strange that, instead of recognizing that the benefits of state workers should be considered our standard, people consider these benefits "entitlements."