A week of union-led volunteer service projects to our nation’s veterans culminated yesterday with an inspiring event in Orange County, honoring our nation’s heroes. I was fortunate enough to join about 3,000 working families and vets at this special event, sponsored by the Orange County Employees Association and OC unions, which was part of the statewide Veterans and Labor – Partners in Service project.
It was truly an amazing day.
The day featured kids making holiday cards to send to ailing vets. The Teamsters Horseman rode Harley Davidsons in solidarity with veterans. There was a food and donation drive. Building and Construction Trades unions offered veterans information on apprenticeship programs. Rep. Loretta Sanchez, along with union leaders, local elected officials and veterans groups, unveiled the new commemorative World War II Medal of Honor postage stamp.
The event coincided with dozens of service projects to veterans all across California. In Sacramento, union volunteers spruced up veterans halls. Across the Inland Empire, UFCW Local 1428 members worked on a number of projects supporting veterans. In LA, unions held a breakfast for homeless vets. Union members helped clean up and restore the historic USS Iowa. And much more.
In an op-ed in Monday’s Orange County Register, California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski and OCEA General Manager Nick Berardino, a Vietnam veteran, detailed why this program is critical to helping veterans and is a priority for labor unions.
You'll find veterans who returned from the battlefield only to be confronted with a different kind of battle – the struggle to put food on the table for their families, pay rent or buy medicine. A struggle to make ends meet, trying to survive on poverty-level wages working for multi-billion dollar corporations like Wal-Mart, or, for many, no job opportunity at all. The unemployment rate for our veterans is a shameful 10 percent, according to Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. For far too many of them the American Dream – the dream they fought to protect – is slipping away.
California's labor unions are leading the charge to change that reality.
For years, unions have supported our nation's veterans through apprenticeships, community service and programs like Helmets to Hard Hats. These programs continue a long tradition of service to country and service to community in the labor movement. It was, after all, WWII veterans who fought for our freedoms abroad, then returned home and provided the foundation for the middle class with family-supporting union jobs.
So today, on Veterans Day, California's labor unions and working families across California pledge to fight for our nation's heroes with the same strength, courage and resolve as they fought for our freedoms, our democracy and our American way of life.
Supporting our nation’s veterans isn’t just a once-a-year-endeavor. California’s unions have committed to Veterans and Labor – Partners in Service for the long haul. On Friday, we released a 7-point plan to support policies that will help our heroes find good, family supporting jobs when they return from service.
Our nation’s veterans fought and sacrificed for freedom and our nation’s middle class. The least we can do in return is to ensure that when they come back from serving our country, a good middle-class job is there for them. That’s why this partnership between unions and veterans is so important.