Brothers and sisters –
Today, I want to extend my warmest wishes to you, the men and women feeding our families and our nation as members of the UFCW. Thank you for your commitment, your talent, your hard work, and your service to this country. On behalf of everyone at the Department of Labor, I'm honored to wish all of you a great Labor Day.
Labor Day is the celebration of a promise fulfilled. For generations, the promise of good jobs, fair treatment and wages, and a seat at the bargaining table has sustained the economic security of America’s vital middle class.
Labor Day is also a call to action, a reminder that we must defend that promise to ensure that dignity and opportunity remain the birthright of all workers in this country.
We know what’s at stake, and we know what we have to do.
We must continue to get people back to work. We’ve come so far in the last 3 ½ years, but we've still got a long way to go. We were bleeding more than 800,000 jobs a month when President Obama took office. But over the last 29 months, we've created 4.5 million private sector jobs.
These new jobs will only contribute to a thriving middle class and a growing economy if we work together to demand good jobs for everyone. That means protecting workers from wage violations, employee misclassification and illegal discrimination. It means ensuring that all workers come home safe and healthy at the end of their shifts. It means expanding opportunity so that no matter who you are or where you come from, you get a fair shot at success.
Earlier this year, I was honored to induct the late UFCW leader Addie Wyatt into the Department of Labor’s Hall of Honor. Addie represents everything we’re fighting for. The faith she showed in the American worker to overcome any obstacle is a source of inspiration for me. Addie’s legacy is alive in workers like Ernestine Bassett, who joined me at the White House last year to share her experience standing up for workplace justice as a cashier at Wal-Mart. Ernestine courageously organized her colleagues to give workers a voice at the company. That’s what the UFCW is all about.
For me, this Labor Day has added meaning. My dad, who was a proud union member, passed away this year. When I was in ninth grade, he would come home and ask me to sit with him at our kitchen table. From his pockets, he would pull pieces of paper with writing in Spanish on them. They were notes given to him by his co-workers. There were all sorts of things scribbled on them: grievances about health and safety, questions about paychecks that didn't add up, and ideas about how to improve the productivity of the line.
He'd ask me to translate them into English. At first, I didn't understand what they were. When I asked, he explained: “They are the voice of the workers.” It was from him, as a young girl, that I learned about the critical need for workers to have a voice on the job and a seat at the table.
Today, I honor his memory with a call for unity and strength – a commitment to keep building on our achievements to meet the urgent needs of working families.
One thing is certain: the promise of the great American worker will never be broken. Working together, there's no challenge we can't overcome.
Hilda L. Solis