On Labor Day, leaders from across the movement for the rights of working families spoke about both the history of the labor movement and the challenges we face in the current hostile environment created by extreme interests that place profits over people. From rallies across the country to online essays, the message was clear: Working families aren't taking the attacks on their rights lightly and they will not only fight back, they will win.
In Wisconsin, President Barack Obama blasted Republican obstructionism and said if he were looking for a good job that let him build security for his family, he would join a union:
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka teamed up with the founder of North Carolina's Moral Mondays, the Rev. William Barber II, to call for justice for all working families:
While our country celebrates workers today, poor and working families are under attack the other 364 days of the year. Wages remain at poverty levels as corporate profits skyrocket. The average CEO makes 774 times more than a minimum wage worker and 331 times more than the average employee. Corporations have turned to temporary and minimum wage workers to silence their employees’ voices. States, counties and cities across the nation are dismantling collective bargaining and other rights that would give workers the chance to challenge these regressive trends....
This is the only winning recipe for labor victories in the South and around the country: Black, brown and white people must unite and fight. It is time for labor to reach out to its natural allies—the civil rights community. That is why we are holding Moral Monday Labor Day actions.
In Maine, AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre rallied in support of workers at FairPoint Communications who are fighting back against an assault on their rights:
In Augusta, Maine, on Sunday about 150 people from 12 different unions including United Steelworkers (USW) and Electrical Workers (IBEW) participated in a Labor Day picnic that featured a mural action with street artist Chris Stain that focused on the theme of "Raising Wages." Gubernatorial candidate Mike Michaud joined the action, adding his own touches to the mural along with local kids before addressing the crowd. Maine State Sen. Chris Johnson took great interest in the mural. Johnson said, “This was great. The right-wing media always tries to paint such a negative image of workers and unions. But this, this is painting the real picture. The real mission. I was glad to be part of it. Let's do a bigger one next year!”
See photos of the mural below:
Created with flickr slideshow.
The mural traveled to Eastern Maine on Labor Day where a "Raising Wages Rocks" event was held featuring the funk band Sly-Chi.
Eastern Maine Labor Council President Jack McKay said:
Building power and having fun is a great combination. Music and art when done well bring so much energy and clarity to our movement. It was just the boost we needed heading into the fall.
Wyatt Closs of Big Bowl of Ideas worked with union leaders in both Maine areas to bring these cultural projects to life.
On the Huffington Post, United Steelworkers (USW) President Leo W. Gerard shared the tale of the generational struggle for middle-class wages through the story of the family of Fred Redmond, the USW Vice President for Human Affairs:
Fred’s great, great grandparents had been slaves. His grandparents, maternal and paternal, were sharecroppers, working other people’s land. The grandkids’ summer farm work helped Fred’s maternal grandparents meet quotas and scrape by.
Fred says those summers taught him that sometimes people do not reap the value of their work. In Chicago, Fred’s family found a way workers may secure a fairer share of the profits generated from their labor. That, of course, is collective bargaining. Union membership launched Fred’s family into the middle class, and Fred has devoted much of his life to helping ensure that access to others.
Continue reading the story of Redmond's family.