The very first Labor Day was created to acknowledge and honor working people who aspired to the American dream and fought for a better life for themselves and their families.
Together, each and every day, we build on the work they began decades ago. As a union that is 1.6 million members strong, we are immensely proud of who we are, and we thank you for the work you do. Our union is at the intersection of two vital societal movements—creating educational opportunity through strong public schools, and advancing economic opportunity through the labor movement and sound economic policies. We not only teach our kids, heal our families, and keep our communities strong, we engage, mobilize and challenge ourselves and our communities to fight for a better nation.
As a union, we are fighting back against the relentless attacks on our jobs, our families and our communities. We are fighting back—whether it’s against Campbell Brown’s efforts to strip teachers of their due process rights and pit teachers against parents; corporate hospital chains seeking to enrich themselves at the expense of patients and healthcare professionals; politicians like Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, who never met a public school, public service or public employee he didn’t want to eliminate; or those saddling students with debt, ripping them off and “Wal-Martizing” the higher education workforce.
The austerity hawks, the privatizers and the deprofessionalizers know that there’s a growing disconnect between what they are peddling and what the American people want. And the only way they can keep their power is by demonizing and marginalizing us.
There’s no doubt they will outspend us—as they will in this coming election. But our strength and the strength of the labor movement has never been our dollar power—it’s been our people power.
This is our fight. But fighting back only gets you so far; we must fight forward to move forward, and that means never being afraid to both engage in conflict and find common ground, particularly with our communities, those we serve and one another. Together, by being member-mobilized, community-engaged, solution-driven and, yes, a little bad ass, we can reclaim the promise of America. We can create a nation fueled by democracy, justice and opportunity for all, instead of for the very few.
These are uncertain times—at home and abroad. Right now, Randi is in Israel, where she’s on a study mission committed to seeking peace and security for this region of the world. On this Labor Day, let’s remember what this day is really about and recommit ourselves to the task before us—creating a more just world.
Mary Cathryn Ricker