Most of us will never have to stand patrol for hours in blistering desert sun and blinding sandstorms. Most of us will never know the burden of marching into the face of danger every day.
But for American soldiers, sailors and airmen – along with their families – these hardships amount to “a day at the office.” The men and women of our armed forces sacrifice deeply and risk their lives for us to enjoy free society in a land of possibility. But while this nation has a rich history of celebrating soldiers and taking care of our own, veterans today aren’t coming home to ticker tape and parades. Often they leave the service with few options, forced to wonder how they’ll support themselves and their families.
The unemployment rate for veterans is still higher than for non-veterans, and is almost 2 percentage points higher for younger veterans. Too many of our war heroes are living on the streets.
We in the labor movement have resolved to stand together in support of our nation’s veterans. For years, through apprenticeship programs, community service and programs like Helmets to Hard Hats, unions have supported veterans. But we must do more. Labor groups are making it a priority to help U.S. veterans secure good jobs, affordable housing, support their families, and enjoy the promise of the American Dream that they risk life and limb to protect.
WWII veterans helped build our middle class brick by brick, fighting to protect our freedoms and returning to family supporting union jobs. Today, unions still represent hundreds of thousands of workers on the front lines of many industries. About 20 percent of all union members are veterans. We are uniquely poised to help our war heroes once again.
“Veterans and Labor – Partners in Service” is a project sponsored by California unions and designed to help veterans on three fronts: providing volunteer service, opening doors to good jobs and hosting special Veterans Day events to honor our heroes for their service.
This year’s event in Orange County, sponsored by the Orange County Employee Association, the California Labor Federation and many unions throughout the region, promises to be the biggest yet. This annual free veterans and community celebration will include thousands of veterans, union members and their families, as well as community at large joining us for a fun-filled and meaningful event where we connect veterans with resources like Helmets to Hard Hats program, free clothing, health benefits, job opportunities, housing resources, legal aid, mental health support resources and much more.
In Los Angeles, the LA County Federation of Labor will host a special Veterans Day breakfast on Friday to honor our nation’s heroes and includes special guest speaker U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu.
And throughout the state, unions are teaming up with the United Way and other community organizations to provide service to veterans.
Veterans Day is a special day to honor those who have given so much to our country. But we shouldn’t honor them just one day a year. We should honor them each and every day by fighting for a fair economy that rewards their service with good jobs that provide benefits and a living wage. That’s the labor movement’s mission.
We hope you join us at an event our service opportunity this weekend. And please join us every day to ensure that all veterans return home to a good job and affordable housing for their family.