Today, Labor Day, many of us will have a day off. We’ll go to the beach, or host a BBQ, and enjoy the end of summer. But it is important to remember that today is not just a day off.
There is a purpose and a history behind the holiday. In 1887 Labor Day was officially established to commemorate the labor movement, and the economic advances of workers and laborers. But today as our economy shifts, many of the advances made by the labor movement are eroding. The Working Families Party was established to combat that. We give workers and their families a voice in our government, and fight for an economy that will work for everyone, not just the rich.
While many of us will have the day off, a growing number of workers will be on the job. Restaurant cooks and servers, retail workers, and grocery store staff, to name just a small segment, will not get the day off. It is a sign of our changing economy, and a prime example of workers losing ground. Our middle class is disappearing and economic inequality is reaching extreme levels. Wages are flat or falling, benefits like paid vacation time and retirement savings opportunities are a luxury instead of the norm, and job security is a thing of the past.
It has always been a struggle for workers to gain respect on the job, particularly for workers who do not have a labor union to help them negotiate. Increasingly state and federal policies are determining the quality of a workplace. And today, a flood of corporate dollars and armies of special interest lobbyists drown out the voices of workers. The result has been predictable: large corporations, and Wall Street banks have gained power, and can frequently defeat common sense legislation that would benefit workers.
That’s where the Working Families Party comes in. We exist to represent working and middle class families and the unemployed: to raise our voices at the Capitol, and advocate for legislation that will have a positive impact on our lives.
And it works. In the past few years we have won some incredible victories. We passed the first statewide paid sick days program, ensuring hundreds of thousands of workers wouldn’t have to choose between their health and their paycheck. We helped Connecticut become the first state to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. We helped lay the groundwork for a public retirement savings program so that every worker has the ability to retire with dignity and security. When workers organize and stand up for themselves, they can win policies that improve their lives, even over the objections of corporate interests.
One of the major reasons for our success on these issues is our unique ability to support candidates, as a political party, who become champions on these issues once elected. The Working Families Party is different than other political parties because it only supports candidates who will stand up for families like ours. It isn’t about personalities or power. It is about values. That is what being an independent political party is all about: our hands aren’t tied by special interests or political bosses. We won’t let anything stand in the way of building a fair and inclusive economy and government.
So today, as you are heading to parades or BBQs, think about how much more we can accomplish for workers. We need to solve the student debt crisis. We need to expand family friendly workplace policies like paid sick days and paid family and medical leave. We need to hold large profitable corporations accountable for poverty wages and shady tax dodging schemes. Then think about how we can accomplish these goals and more. Just as labor unions have amplified workers voices on the job, the Working Families Party amplifies workers voices at the polls. This November, vote on the Working Families Party ballot line and stand up for your values.
Lindsay Farrell is the executive director of the Connecticut Working Families Party.
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