Opinion

This Labor Day, let’s all resolve to ‘Fight for $15’

Author: Ron Ruggiero - September 4, 2017 - Updated: September 4, 2017

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Ron Ruggiero
Ron Ruggiero

The beauty of Labor Day is that it’s about more than just one day — it’s about acknowledging and celebrating every other day — when Americans go to work and do their critical work to keep our economy and society humming along. All work involves some combination of experience, education, skill, courage and commitment, and it deserves our recognition.

That recognition comes in a variety of forms. Labor Day, a day of relaxation for some, is one of those forms.

Workers’ compensation, benefits, and respect on the job are important forms of recognition too. There’s no better way to acknowledge the value or significance of everyday work than when workers receive fair wages, paid time off, affordable healthcare coverage, and a real voice at work.

Unfortunately, too many politicians that are so happy to celebrate Labor Day seem unwilling to take real steps to give the people that perform this labor the respect and rights that they deserve.

This Labor Day, SEIU members and working people nationwide are putting the Fight for $15 and a union at the forefront of our agenda. We need to give a wake-up call to the politicians and policymakers that are rejecting minimum wage increases, denigrating the value of work, or fail to support workers gaining a voice at work through organizing a union.

The Fight for $15, along with a nationwide demand for unions, puts workers’ rights at the center of a national conversation that transcends industry, occupation and interest. Workers in health care, fast food, higher education, airports, and other service industries, as well as those leading the fights against racism and working to protect immigrants, the environment, and health care, can all rally behind this call for action.

This collective push for union membership and a $15 minimum wage will help resolve income inequality nationwide. The Federal Reserve recently noted that 75 percent of Americans’ paychecks are either stagnant or declining. The Center for American Progress found a direct link between the decline in union membership and the decline in the middle class’ share of the national income. The difference in average wages between workers represented by a union and workers not represented by a union is nearly $7 per hour. This disparity is even worse for minorities; according to a study done by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, more than half of all African American workers are paid less than $15 per hour — and only 14.2 percent are represented by unions. Unions can be a vital engine to drive greater economic and racial justice across our country.

Today is a day intended to honor and appreciate the work done by ALL Americans. Let’s turn that recognition into action, by allowing workers the freedom to organize unions and supporting the national Fight for $15. Together, as a coalition, workers and their supporters have the power to make their voices heard, and what better day than Labor Day to start.

Ron Ruggiero

Ron Ruggiero is the president of SEIU 105.