We couldn’t begin Labor Day weekend without a nod to our union sisters and brothers.
Before Labor Day was celebrated in the 1880s, a typical work week included all seven days. Workers likely put in 12-hour days and some were as young as five-years-old. Bosses locked workers inside their workplaces so they would not take unauthorized breaks. Working conditions were incredibly dangerous and there was no such thing as a minimum wage. But thankfully courageous workers rallied, organized, and at times, went on strike. In extreme cases, it cost lives to pave the way for benefits we often take for granted today.
It’s worth remembering their sacrifices, because as city leaders we know good jobs mean better communities. Studies have shown that those covered under a union contract narrow the wealth gap because union members generally have higher wages, more job stability, and better benefits.
Organizing works! It’s not only good policy, it’s what people want. Unions are not only working for people on payday. We have seen them help build our communities, as when the NEA and AFT demanded more school counselors and nurses for our students, rallied for immigrant families and called for student loan forgiveness policies. They mobilized when the Ironworkers, IUPAT, SMART, and the Carpenter’s Union worked with the other the building trade unions to call on DMO and so many others to keep apprenticeship programs intact and prevent them from lowering standards in the construction industry. AFSCME continues to protect public service workers through their advocacy of the The Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act.
Whether at our roundtables, at rallies, or in refusing to cross a picket line, DMO continues to connect and engage our union partners in meaningful lines of communication. Our work continues.
Unions remain an effective vehicle for our communities to provide a pathway to the middle class. DMO’s Labor Council serves as the bridge between our Democratic leaders and unions to keep that vehicle running powerfully, effectively, and inclusively. If you want to learn more about the work of DMO’s Labor Council contact Christine Senteno at christine.senteno@NationalDMO.
As I proudly participate in Philadelphia’s Labor Day parade on Monday, I’ll be remembering those workers who sacrificed so much. From the countless workers who gave us the benefits we have today, to AFSCME’s sanitation workers whose fight led to a civil rights movement, to the workers who continue to mobilize today, I remain committed to the legacy of 32BJ’s Hector Figueroa who reminded us about Labor and our Democratic values: “We can build a lasting movement that will reduce income inequality, create a country that is fair for all and kick the hatemongers out of office.”
Happy Labor Day,
DMO Labor Chair
Philadelphia At-Large City Council Member