Labor Day is a day to honor the working men and women of America — the most productive workers in the world.
As we celebrate Labor Day with parades, family cookouts, sporting events and other activities, we should also take a few moments to reflect on what unions and labor have provided us. For years unions have been fighting for better pay, safe working conditions, health care and retirement benefits.
At the federal and state government level, unions advocated and lobbied for the creation of OSHA, family medical leave, child labor laws, unemployment insurance, overtime pay, retirement benefits, employee health insurance, Social Security and Medicare. These laws and programs have benefited everyone and raised the living standards for all working men and women, both union and non-union. Working together labor unions make a powerful lobby for action.
However, labor’s advocacy work is never done. We always have new challenges to fight for. In November, Illinois voters have the opportunity to add a Workers’ Rights Amendment to the state constitution.
A yes vote on Nov. 8 will strengthen workers’ right to collectively bargain by including it in the Illinois Constitution. Currently there is nothing in the state constitution about workers’ rights. Adding the amendment would prohibit any laws being passed that would interfere in the right of employees to organize and collectively bargain for their wages and benefits. Vote yes in November to strengthen workers’ rights in Illinois.
Besides working on legislative issues, labor unions also operate one of the best career training programs. The union apprenticeship programs offer a great alternative to the high cost of college. Building trade apprenticeships are funded jointly by unions and their contractors.
The apprenticeship is tuition free, so not only do you get paid wages and benefits while you are in training, but you will graduate without student loans to repay.
On Labor Day it’s appropriate to take time to honor workers and recognize they are all essential. All work has dignity and all people who perform it are essential. During the COVID-19 outbreak we saw firsthand that without workers that build, manufacture, grow, transport, care for, clean, cook, serve, repair and perform a thousand other tasks we would not have a very productive economy or nation.
It’s workers that make our country great. It is why America is renowned around the world for its work ethic. On this Labor Day thank you to all our nation’s workers. •
Jerry Lack is executive director of the Tri-City Building & Construction Trades Council, headquartered in Rock Island. He can be reached at email@example.com.