Let’s celebrate the labor
That built up this great land
From field to field to desk to desk
They built it hand in hand.
Happy Labor Day
On this labor day, I want to salute our members and other hard working laborers who have contributed immensely in making our country the world leader. I also want to acknowledge the sacrifices of our forefathers for protecting and ensuring the rights that we all are exercising today as American workers.
Florida Public Services Union (FPSU) is a voice of committed workers who spend their days and nights to provide quality services in our cities, schools, libraries, and head start agencies. Millions of Floridians depend on our members for their safety, health, education, child care and other vital services that help build safe and healthy communities.
On this labor day, I also want to highlight our efforts in protecting the working families in Florida. One of this fight is our Fair Economy Campaign. The campaign is launched in 2011 to ensure that the rich corporations are paying their fair share and creating the jobs they have promised.
In St. Petersburg, our campaign, the People’s Budget Review is identifying solutions to the budget crisis that every municipality, city, and state is facing. As a result of this campaign, the residents came out and said NO to further cuts in the services, that are being provided by the city to the middle and working class Americans. The residents demanded that the city need to identify additional resources for increasing the revenue. They have proposed various measures to increase the efficiency and revenue such as an increase in the millage rate.
FPSU is proactively collaborating with the working class communities all over Florida to protect schools, healthcare, jobs and middle class. We are doing this by reaching out to the legislators and the elected representatives for developing pro-middle class policies.
We are also negotiating the contracts of our members to ensure that our schools, cities, libraries and head start agencies are equipped with the trained human resources who are enjoying apt working conditions to improve quality of service.
We know that there are still many mile stones to be achieved but we are certain that with the help of our communities, members and their families we will progress to make America stronger.
Labor Day, during this election year, will evoke different rhetoric from politicians than in past years. Politicians, as they make speeches recognizing the contributions of American workers to the nation’s prosperity, will also try to convince voters that their vision for restoring the middle class is best.
Voters know the state of the economy. We know that the middle class is eroding. We know that what is happening now is the result of decades of policies that favor the rich and corporations. We know that now, more than ever, rebuilding the middle class in this country is at stake. Part of reason for the shrinking middle class is not simply a lack of jobs, but a dearth of good, family-sustaining jobs. Indeed, politicos have it right. This November presents a choice between President Obama and other national candidates who stand with working people, and candidates like Mitt Romney who backs a platform that decimates public services and envisions a future in which the rich and corporations get richer.
In a study released last month, the Pew Research Center reaffirmed what working people in this country have known for years: the middle class is shrinking and so is middle class share of income. According to the study, during the last decade, middle-class income declined for the first time since the end of World War II; meanwhile, the percentage of Americans defined as middle class fell from 61 to 51 percent since 1970, and the share of income that went to upper income people grew substantially over the same period. The study follows a similar examination of middle-class decline by the Yale University Institution for Social and Policy Studies, which found a growing disconnect between economic output and wages.
Despite growing evidence that the middle class is in jeopardy, Republican leadership has spent the last four years blocking legislation that would put the middle class on firm footing once again. Instead of voting for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that made healthcare accessible to millions of Americans, Republicans wasted time debating intrusive women’s healthcare legislation. While Democrats made bold strides on the DREAM Act, legislation that would have provided a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrant youth, Republicans continued their crusade to scapegoat immigrants. When Democrats in Congress introduced the American Jobs Act and other measures to stimulate the economy, Republicans continued the same charade, blocking progress at every step.
Republicans across this country share a common record of campaigning against working people. We saw it last year in Wisconsin, where middle class public sector workers became scapegoats and busting unions, thereby unraveling the middle class, became a policy objective. We saw it earlier this year in Alabama when Republicans passed one of the country’s most anti-immigrant bills (in a state with one of the smallest immigrant populations in the country, no less), instead of focusing on the state’s job crisis and faltering education system. And today, we are seeing in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Minnesota and every other state where right-wing legislatures passed voter identification laws that, experts widely agree, more adversely affect low-income people, youth and communities of color.
It is meaningless for elected leaders to deliver empty rhetoric about working people’s contribution on Labor Day – or any day – without using their power in Washington to create an economy that works for all. From Wisconsin, Alabama, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Minnesota and elsewhere, working people know what is at stake for this country. They want their elected leaders to move away from the soaring rhetoric and work for them. They want their contributions to be valued beyond Labor Day, and they want politicians in Washington to have depth of understanding of hardworking families’ everyday lives. In the spirit of the day created to honor the American worker, it’s time to get everyone back to work and create prosperity for many, not just the few.
In honor of Labor Day, U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis sent SEIU members the following message:
Today, I want to extend my warmest wishes to you, the members of SEIU: nurses, doctors, lab technicians, nursing home workers, janitors, window cleaners, bus drivers, child care providers. Thank you for your commitment, your talent, your hard work, and your service to this country. On behalf of everyone at the Department of Labor, I’m honored to wish all of you a great Labor Day.
Labor Day is the celebration of a promise fulfilled. For generations, the promise of good jobs, fair treatment and wages, and a seat at the bargaining table has sustained the economic security of America’s vital middle class.
Labor Day is also a call to action, a reminder that we must defend that promise to ensure that dignity and opportunity remain the birthright of all workers in this country. It reminds us that workers’ rights, income equality, and the free exercise of collective bargaining rights are the backbone of an America built to last.
We know what’s at stake, and we know what we have to do.
We’ve come so far in the last 3 ½ years, but we’ve still got a long way to go. Over the last 29 months, we’ve created 4.5 million jobs. We must continue to get people back to work. President Obama understands that communities depend on the vital services you provide. He has called for investments that will fix our crumbling roads, bridges, airports and schools; prevent more layoffs of teachers and first responders; and keep more police and firefighters on the beat.
For 90 years, SEIU has organized workers to give them a stronger voice in the workplace, and now is not the time to let up. Some say that we can’t afford unions right now, that labor unions are the problem in this country. But I think they’ve got it just plain wrong. Unions like SEIU helped build America’s middle class. You are now — and always will be — part of the solution.
For me, this Labor Day has added meaning. My dad, who was a proud union member, passed away this year. When I was in ninth grade, he would come home and ask me to sit with him at our kitchen table. From his pockets, he would pull pieces of paper with writing in Spanish on them. They were notes given to him by his co-workers. There were all sorts of things scribbled on them: grievances about health and safety, questions about paychecks that didn’t add up, and ideas about how to improve the productivity of the line.
He’d ask me to translate them into English. At first, I didn’t understand what they were. When I asked, he explained: “They are the voice of the workers.” It was from him, as a young girl, that I learned about the critical need for workers to have a voice on the job and a seat at the table.
Today, I honor his memory with a call for unity and strength – a commitment to keep building on our achievements to meet the urgent needs of working families.
One thing is certain: the promise of the great American worker will never be broken. Working together, there’s no challenge we can’t overcome.
Hilda L. Solis