LABOR DAY: Unions Take On Daunting Challenges

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BY PRESIDENT PAT EIDING, Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO/ On Monday, Sep. 3, the Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO’s Tri-State Labor Day Parade & Family Festival will once again welcome thousands of union members and workers from across the region to Penn’s’ Landing.

Labor Day is always a time for me to reflect on the work of the year past and to look forward to the challenges ahead. While the rest of the world celebrates Labor Day on May 1, in the United States we celebrate on the first Monday of September. As a result, it is sometimes lost in the shuffle of end-of-summer parties and back-to-school sales. But right now, as workers face some of the most-daunting challenges in a generation, we need to remember Labor Day is a day to celebrate all work and all the people who do it.

It’s true, the challenges are great: Unemployment is still dangerously high; state and local budgets are strained so services are cut and teachers, firefighters and police are laid off; and efforts to roll back our rights to have a voice at work and to collectively bargain continue. Sadly, we’re not alone as we’ve seen an unrelenting attack on the rights of women and voters as well.

The good news is that in the last few years we have awakened and fought back like we haven’t for a very long time. Here in the region, we’ve seen remarkable things happen when workers stick together. Privatization attempts for our school employees and our Wine & Spirits Shop employees have failed because we’ve stood together. Refinery workers, refusing to believe something was impossible, joined together to save their industry and their communities in the process. And just three weeks ago, over 50,000 workers came to Philadelphia to Stand for America and to advance a proactive agenda – a “Second Bill of Rights” for all workers.

Of course, we need to translate this energy to make sure in November we elect the candidates who will fight for us – all of us, not just the privileged and wealthy – and who will stand up for the five principles of the 2nd Bill of Rights: full employment and a living wage, quality education, access to the ballot box, a secure retirement and the right to a voice at work. These principles are simple enough but are not always simple to protect.

PAT EIDING … President, Phila. Council AFL-CIO

So, as you look toward the end of summer and getting back to the fall routine, I hope you take a minute to sign the Bill of Rights (www.workers­ and think about ways you can stand up and fight for your rights – whether as a voter, a woman, a worker, etc – in the months to come.

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