Every year when Labor Day comes around, I’m filled with pride. As the President of Local 338 RWDSU/UFCW and the Long Island Federation of Labor/AFL-CIO, I have the honor of representing well over 250,000 working men and women between the two organizations. I have seen these organizations and many others grow and organize thousands of people all for the same reasons. We make sure that the protections workers are entitled to are enforced on the job and negotiate better lives for them and their families.
Without labor unions, many of the protections and laws that have been put in place for the working people wouldn’t have been established. It is the duty of unions to give a voice to those who need it through representation. The right to collective bargaining is explicitly stated in the New York State Constitution because union members fought for it to be included. Every worker is entitled to fair wages, dignity and respect on the job and through that right, we make sure that it is in their contracts.
Unity has been at the heart of the labor movement since the beginning and has remained a key part of the message of unions today. The members of the movement have always been ready and willing to support their hard working brothers and sisters. Most recently, we have come together to support IBEW Local 3 in the Spectrum strike, which began at the end of March and is still ongoing. Through our combined strength and solidarity, we will continue to support IBEW Local 3 until they get the contract they have earned. The reality is, when working people join together, we succeed. With the help of their union family throughout Long Island, the men and women of Teamsters Local 812 reached a contract agreement with Clare Rose after 84 days on strike.
It took a long time for the labor movement to reach this point, and we have our predecessors to thank for that. The men and women who came before us made the necessary sacrifices so we can enjoy the benefits the labor movement has today. However, just because we have improved dramatically since the beginning doesn’t mean that our fight is over yet. Now more than ever, it is critical that workers across the state of New York remain vigilant when fighting for our rights. The risk of national “Right to Work” legislation and the possibility of a State Constitutional Convention threaten the hard working men and women who belong to unions.
Members of the labor movement have demonstrated unity and solidarity to make a difference in the way things are run in New York. In recent years, we have had a large part in improving unemployment compensation, establishing a $15 minimum wage, and helped get better funding for our schools. Working people are a force to be reckoned with and are determined to get the benefits they know they deserve.
The real meaning of Labor Day is often overlooked. It is a day dedicated to recognizing the people involved in the labor movement and people who help our society run smoothly. So, while you are out with your family today, be sure to thank the ones who are helping you while you shop, are making sure you have a great dining experience and are keeping you and your loved ones safe. They are your friends, family, and neighbors and without them, the American labor movement wouldn’t be as strong as it is.