Labor Day weekend is a time to honor workers. We must do so especially at a time when the United States finds itself confronted by the coronavirus pandemic and the economic suffering the pandemic has inflicted on our nation and on our nation’s working families.
To our frontline nurses and firefighters, bus drivers, teachers, construction and grocery store workers, and so many others who put their own safety on the line every day to care for us, our children, and our seniors — thank you!
This Labor Day, let us focus on the threat of COVID-19 and vote to elect leaders who will fight this deadly virus, and who will advance policies that will help our communities.
In addition to COVID-19, workers have had to contend with attacks by President Donald Trump and his enablers in Congress. Their targets have included the U.S. Postal Service, the HEROES Act, and an array of regulations that safeguard the right to organize for better pay and benefits.
The administration has pushed directives restricting the role of unions in the federal workplace and given agencies the green light in taking disciplinary action against employees by expanding their authority to discipline employees and limit the topics on which unions are allowed to bargain. And under Trump, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued only one citation for violations of workplace safety laws related to COVID-19.
But rather than surrendering to despair, remember that when workers unite to support each other, there is no obstacle that can’t be overcome. Together we will bring change to our city and build a prosperous economy here and in every corner of this great nation.
In March, the Philadelphia community and labor leaders partnered with Mayor Jim Kenney (who was a member of two unions) and City Council to create its paid sick leave law to cover public health emergencies like COVID-19. Workers covered under the city’s sick leave law can now use their sick time during a public health emergency.
This is only the beginning. Now is the time for all of us to stand with labor. Now more than ever, it’s important to take this year’s holiday to uplift political candidates who will put America’s workers first, stand with the frontline workers who continue to put others before themselves, and vote on Nov. 3 for leaders who will protect the working class and put our needs above theirs.
I grew up in the labor movement. I’ve been a union member nearly all my adult life (except for a few years serving Uncle Sam). As a member of Insulators Local 14, I worked on construction sites as far away as Atlantic City and upstate New York. I was blessed to see the Labor Day Parade grow from an event with only 10 unions participating, to one that now boasts more than 100 participating unions, bringing thousands of members. I know firsthand the grit and determination of the American worker, and our ability to fight through tough times. The labor movement has fought for working families since our inception. As we all struggle with the effects of COVID-19, our work has never wavered.
Patrick J. Eiding is currently serving his sixth term as president of the Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO, representing over 100 local unions in the Philadelphia area. He grew up in Kensington.