By JEFF JOHNSON
(Sept. 2, 2016) — Sisters and Brothers, I want to wish you a great Labor Day weekend and to thank you and your unions’ members for all that you do to make our communities and economy strong. While many of us will have a much deserved day off, many others will be working on Labor Day and we should take the opportunity to thank those who are working for their efforts.
We have much to proud about this Labor Day. As a labor movement we are standing up for fair wages and working conditions, job creation, protecting our environment, addressing bigotry, and working to elect candidates that understand the importance of workers having a voice at work and in the community.
We are rallying around Sound Transit Phase 3 (ST 3). While this expansion of mass transit encompasses Pierce, King, and Snohomish counties, its impacts on jobs, economic development and climate are statewide. ST 3 will create approximately 50 million worker hours of labor, take hundreds of thousands of cars off the roads, reduce CO2 pollution by 10 percent, create generational jobs in the building and construction industry, allow the expansion of pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs, and create affordable transit-oriented housing for working people.
We are bringing to the public Initiative 1433, which will raise the state minimum wage to $13.50 an hour by 2020 and provide 7 paid sick days to workers in Washington state. More than a million workers will receive a raise and paid time off when they or a family member are sick after I-1433 passes in November. I-1433 will strengthen families, communities and the economy.
We are standing up for state employees who have sacrificed over the last eight years to provide the safety net services that keep our communities together. On Aug. 31, I had the honor of speaking at a rally at the Capitol where more than 1,000 workers, family members and community members stood tall for state employee raises. Representatives from over 20 unions and community organizations raised the roof at the Capitol saying, “Public service matters and public employees matter.” Because the truth is, when our public safety net fails, our society fails.
Farm workers and community allies continue to organize for a fair contract at Sakuma Brothers Farms in Skagit Valley. Despite an announcement by the company earlier in the summer that they were willing to sit down and hammer out an agreement, the company has engaged in the all too familiar anti-union tactics we have seen from far too many employers. This despite the fact that we have offered as a labor movement to promote the sale of their products should a fair contract be signed. The struggle continues and will not let up until there is a fair contract in place.
We are fighting for the passage of Initiative 124 in Seattle that would protect hotel workers from sexual harassment and excessive workloads, provide job security and affordable family health care benefits. This largely female and immigrant workforce deserves dignity and respect for the work that they do and the opportunity to earn a family wage job without harassment from customers and management. They deserve to be safe from injury and safe from unwanted advances in the course of doing their work.
These are just some the ways in which we are proudly raising our voices on this Labor Day 2016. Our spirit and our voices grow every day. Thank you for all that you do.
Jeff Johnson is President of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, the largest labor organization in the Evergreen State, representing the interests of more than 600 local unions and approximately 450,000 rank-and-file union members.