by Lorena Gonzalez (This Labor Day message originally appeared in the U-T San Diego on August 30, 2012)
As a single mom, on my busiest mornings I struggle to ensure that everyone’s teeth are brushed, breakfast is eaten, lunches are made, the kids get to school on time and I get into work. On those mornings, it’s the barista at the local coffee shop who quickly passes me a hot cup of coffee with plenty of room for milk that makes things a little more bearable. She is my daily reminder that no matter what we do, work connects us all; we depend on one another’s work.
On this Labor Day, let’s recognize the women and men who do the work that keeps America strong.
That’s pretty much all of us. Our work makes the work of others possible. We rely on the teacher to inspire our children. The teacher depends on the bus driver to get the students to class on time, in one piece. The bus driver counts on the mechanic to keep the buses running and safe. The mechanic relies on the mail carrier to deliver the parts at the bus yard. And so on it goes.
Work connects us all. And together, we are better.
And yet, too often in this hyper-political atmosphere it is the everyday worker who has been blamed and vilified as the cause of everything wrong with our country. As Americans, we need to honor and respect work and the people who do it. Not just some work, all work.
Every day is an opportunity to recognize the hard work of others. I bet you can think of plenty of workers in your life who deserve thanks. We want everyone to know their work matters.
Still, we can do more than just thank a worker. As a community we can show our respect for American workers with our purchasing power. When we make our investments here at home, we create a virtuous cycle of good jobs, decent wages, consumer-driven growth, thriving businesses and communities, and a promising future for our children. How do we do that?
We start by looking for the Made in the USA label. It’s a simple act that takes just a few extra minutes, but honors the efforts of countless American workers. Buying American keeps factories open here in the United States, allows workers to continue to bring home a paycheck, ensures small businesses in our communities still have customers with expendable income, and strengthens our tax base so our schools and public services can thrive. Whether we are buying a bottle of ketchup or a new car, we pay tribute to our workers when we buy American.
Even with these individual efforts, we know that there is still more that can and must be done. This year, we have been calling on Congress to bring jobs home. After decades of trade and tax policies that favored off-shoring American jobs, we have a historic opportunity to collectively voice our demand to reinvest in America and the American worker.
The American worker is smart, strong and innovative. And if given the chance to compete on a level playing field, can outperform anyone.
But for too long, we’ve given out corporate tax breaks for shipping our jobs overseas. On the model of the Bring Jobs Home Act, we should instead be rewarding the businesses who remain committed to supporting work done right here in America, and supporting President Obama’s goal to grow our economy from the middle class out.
This Labor Day, we’re calling on everyone to join us to support all that American workers do to make our lives better. Let’s reclaim this end-of-summer holiday as a day to honor all workers: The janitor who cleans up after us, the lifeguard who keeps us safe, the waitress who serves our dinner, and the electrician who keeps the lights on. Let’s recommit to being economic patriots and buy local, American-made products when we can. And let’s demand that those in Washington correct the loopholes and policies that benefit corporations who move their jobs to other countries. Instead let’s incentivize responsible businesses that know they can do just as well by keeping their jobs here.
This Labor Day let’s recognize who keeps America strong: The American worker.
Lorena Gonzalez is Secretary-Treasurer of the San Diego – Imperial Counties Labor Council.