No it is not that we do not have a McCain/Palin administration, it is Hilda Solis. Here is her op/ed for Labor Day.
When I was in ninth grade, my dad often asked me to translate little scraps of paper that he got from his co-workers at the battery recycling plant. He was a union steward there, and through those notes – often written in Spanish – his co-workers shared their concerns about unsafe conditions, paychecks that didn’t add up or new ideas to improve efficiency. My dad explained that the notes started conversations to make things better.
From an early age, I saw how having a collective voice at work made a real and significant difference for my father, his co-workers and for my mother who worked at a toy factory.
“Union” is a simple word with a powerful impact – when workers unify, they get a little more leverage to bargain. They can collectively ask for fairer wages and safer working conditions. They have a better chance at entering and staying in the middle class.
Wisconsin has been at the epicenter of the nation’s labor debates this year, and collective bargaining – what my dad called sitting “at the table” – has been a key issue. Similar battles are being fought in other states. According to a recent poll, the American people strongly oppose efforts to strip state workers of their rights to collectively bargain.
More than 100 years ago, Labor Day was established to pay tribute to workers. It’s a day to recognize the contributions working men and women have made to the strength and prosperity of our nation. Today is a day when every one of us should take a moment to thank them and honor their work.
Throughout our nation’s history, unions have played a role in all that. Their efforts have made the workplace better and safer for all workers, whether they are in a union or not. If you enjoy your weekends, you can thank a union. If you work an eight-hour day or get paid overtime when you work more, you can thank a union. If you’re paid a minimum wage, if you take time off to care for a sick family member or new baby, you can thank a union.
Unions are still a crucial and articulate voice in advocating for workers and keeping families in the middle class. Across the country, unions are leading the way with registered apprentice programs – helping to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure – that provide first-rate training, good jobs with good pay and a gateway to a better life.
Unions are also helping veterans make the transition to civilian life, with programs such as Helmets to Hardhats, a nonprofit organization that has connected thousands of veterans with careers, training and jobs in the construction industry.
One of the reasons that the American auto industry has soared back is that management recognized its workforce as an enormous asset with unique wisdom about making cars. For example, when the unionized workers building the Ford Explorer noticed that a bracket installation process could cause paint damage, they took their concerns to the engineers. Management listened and, together with the union, responded with a new protective covering on the paint surface. As a result, Ford Explorer drivers nationwide are saving money in paint repairs.
Having that voice makes a difference in all of our lives . . . and not just about the paint on our cars. The people who teach our children, the nurses who care for us when we are sick, the firefighters who run into burning buildings or the police who patrol the streets while we sleep need and deserve that voice, too. And when they have it, those of us who depend on them benefit from it.
It’s been a long time since I sat with my dad and those scraps of paper, but what I learned from our time together then is still true: A voice at work makes things better.
That idea is worth remembering and celebrating. Not just on Labor Day, but every day.