08/30/2012; Hilda Solis
U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis sends us this.
Today, I want to extend my warmest wishes to you, the working men and women of America. You remain the beating heart of the greatest middle class in the world. 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.
Every day, you are creating an America built to last by harvesting our food, building our automobiles, constructing our buildings, providing energy for our homes and caring for our loved ones. Labor Day is our opportunity to honor that work, and that means standing up and speaking out and taking pride in what we do. You show us that each of us makes a profound contribution to our communities and our nation with the work we do; because the work of every person is built on the work of another, we all rely on one another. Work connects us all.
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.
We know what’s at stake, and we know what we have to do.
We’ve come so far in the last three-and-a-half years, but we’ve still got a long way to go. We were bleeding more than 800,000 jobs a month when President Obama took office. But over the last 29 months, we’ve created 4.5 million private-sector jobs. We must continue to get people back to work. You stand with President Obama to support his call 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.
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 helped build America’s middle class. You are now—and always will be—part of the solution.
That is chiefly because you speak with one voice to demand dignity, respect and good jobs for everyone—jobs with strong safety and health standards; protections against wage theft, discrimination and employee misclassification; and a voice at the workplace.
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 pulled pieces of paper with writing in Spanish on them. They were scribbled messages from co-workers: safety grievances, 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. When I asked what they were, 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 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