Dear Sisters and Brothers:
This Labor Day we will pause to recognize the incredible achievements of America’s workers. Many of us will gather at parades and barbecues to celebrate all who make this country run. On this occasion, we should also recognize that despite our sweat, our sacrifice and our innovation, too many working families are struggling and unable to get by, and this hasn’t happened by chance.
The rise in political and corporate attacks on working people has meant that wages have declined or remained flat for decades. Good jobs have become harder to come by. Unemployment remains too high. Large raises have gone almost exclusively to CEOs, corporate shareholders an d the wealthiest among us. Working people are more productive than ever—but are not seeing the rewards.
It simply does not have to be this way. No one should work for a living yet struggle to support a family. But some of the fastest job growth is occurring in such low-wage industries as fast food and retail, which is why more families feel like they are struggling to keep up with living costs. These same industries are least likely to pay a living wage or provide basic benefits like earned sick days and holidays. This means many of America’s workers can’t afford to take the day off if they get sick. And they certainly can’t afford to take a day off to care for a family member in need.
This is why the labor movement launched the Raising Wages campaign this year. Working people everywhere are frustrated by the indifference and hostility of political and corporate powers and are taking matters into their own hands. This year, we have witnessed some incredible achievements across the country—of a growing workers’ movement led by those who are ready to say, “Enough. It’s time for fundamental, lasting change.” Nationally, dozens of towns, cities and states are acting to raise their minimum wage and establish family-friendly policies.
In Ohio, this movement has been driven by the endless stream of attacks on working people over the last several years, whether it be attempts to weaken the collective bargaining rights of workers, tax and spending decisions that squeeze the middle class or attacks on the voting rights of our citizens- it is clear that powerful interests seek to gain by hurting working class Ohioans.
Unfortunately, political sideshows have replaced genuine debate of fundamental economic questions for the upcoming elections. Gutter politics will always undermine our democratic system in this way as the electorate might be influenced to vote on matters not related to their own interests. On Labor Day, let us commit to a more sincere debate and focus on what will be best for our communities, our state, and our nation.
Working people are united under the banner of Raising Wages because Ohio should have an economy of shared prosperity that truly works for all workers, not just the wealthy. Every day, workers labor and sacrifice to achieve the American Dream. This Labor Day should be a celebration for working families because we are ready to secure a better future for all.
President, Ohio AFL-CIO
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