Labor Day is often recognized as celebrating the strength of organized labor. However, Labor Day commemorates something much more significant: the importance of working families in making the United States the greatest country in the world.
While many people will spend Labor Day weekend with barbecues and visits to the beach, it is important to remember the true meaning of this American holiday. Labor Day is more than the unofficial end of summer. It recognizes the hard work and fortitude of working people, whose efforts have helped secure the rights and freedoms of this nation.
During my 11 years as a New York City public school teacher, I was a member of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) and witnessed first-hand and participated in many of the processes that helped strengthen organized labor and secure work place rights.
The blood, sweat and tears of America’s labor and trade unions secured the right to collective bargaining, minimum wage, equal pay for women, Social Security, Medicare, the 40-hour work week, overtime pay, paid sick leave and paid vacation leave, unemployment insurance, and many other privileges we are fortunate to have today.
In addition, organized labor led the fight to eliminate many unfair and harsh work place practices. Thanks to the efforts of organized labor, child labor and unsafe working conditions were outlawed in the U.S. It is because of the efforts of organized labor that workers cannot be discriminated against, based on their gender, race, ethnicity or religion. And as a result of organized labor, workers have the right to stand up to injustice and speak up for what they believe in.
While it is important to recognize the past triumphs of organized labor, we must also recognize that there is still work to be done to ensure that America remains the greatest country on Earth.
This Labor Day, we need to recognize that we must continue to strive to maintain quality education, adequate public transportation, affordable housing for working people, and safe work conditions with fair pay and such benefits as sick leave and health benefits, to insure that our families will continue to be able to contribute to the growth of our neighborhood as a place to live, raise families and enjoy their senior years.
As a member of the Assembly’s Committees on Labor and Governmental Employees, whether I’m in Albany or Brooklyn, I will continue to fight for quality public education, improved public transit, and fair benefits and compensation for workers. We need to make sure the working families of southwest Brooklyn continue to prosper and thrive.
Assemblymember William Colton represents the 47th Assembly District.