Fifty years ago this week, union workers joined with civil rights leaders and progressive activists to march on Washington for good jobs and equal rights for all. Dr. Martin Luther King’s call for America to “rise up” and demand equality — both economic and racial — was a seminal moment in our nation’s history. This Labor Day, much has changed since 1963. But sadly, too much remains the same.
The American Dream is but a faint hope for many workers today. The path to the middle class is an increasingly uphill climb that’s littered with obstacles like low pay, declining retirement security and costly health care. For immigrant workers, the news is even bleaker. More than 2.6 million hard-working immigrants in California live in the shadows, never able to realize America’s promise.
Immigration reform holds the promise of delivering a pathway to citizenship for immigrant workers that would finally put the middle class within reach to those who do so much to help grow our economy. Comprehensive immigration reform isn’t just a policy imperative. It’s a moral imperative. This Congress will be judged on its ability to deliver a fair shot at the American Dream to all workers, including immigrants.
While the economic challenges facing our families are daunting this Labor Day, the good news is that the tide is turning. Our economy is emerging from a dark recession that hit Californians especially hard. Workers are beginning to rise up today just like we did in 1963. From fast food workers to taxi cab drivers to Walmart employees, low-wage workers are finding their voice to demand a decent wage for a hard day’s work. In California, union membership is on the uptick as more and more workers fight to stand together and bargain with their employers for fair wages and benefits.
A fair and equitable economy isn’t a pipe dream. It’s a reality that’s within our grasp. And it’s a reality that California’s unions are committed to fighting for, no matter how long it takes.