A Labor Day message from Southern Region President Anthony Adamo
It’s no secret that Labor Day weekend has become associated with barbecues, back to school sales, and the last moments of summer vacation.
Celebrations are wonderful, but the reality is that many don’t appreciate the true reason for this holiday. Unions and the labor movement are touched upon in school, but more as a historical footnote than a relevant force for change in today’s world.
As we mark Labor Day in 2019, unions are as important today as they were during watershed moments in labor history such as the Homestead Strike of 1892 and the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in 1911. Not only do unions set the standards for all workers, they should be recognized as playing a key role in creating good jobs for students coming out of high school and college. Our union was exactly that for me, 20 years ago, when I began working at SUNY New Paltz at age 19 and became trained as an electrician through our union benefits with the NYS/CSEA Partnership for Education and Training.
Some of the issues may be different than those of 1892, but workers in the United States still face challenges on the job. We’ve seen workers struggle when jobs are contracted out for lower wages, corners are cut with workplace safety, and so many workers are singularly doing the work done previously by two or three people.
While some may feel there are no solutions to these problems, other workers in our area and across the state are going down a different path. They’re organizing unions in their workplaces, sticking together as workers so that they may have a voice on the job. While national attacks on the labor movement persist, unions in New York are growing stronger. It’s been so energizing over the past few months to welcome several large groups of workers into our union as they organized with CSEA. Let’s pitch in to help that momentum build.
With that said, I’d like to ask a few things of our members here in the Southern Region.
First, if you haven’t been involved in our union, I’m asking you to change that. Involvement doesn’t mean you have to be an officer or a shop steward. Make time to attend a union meeting. Check out your union bulletin board. When The Work Force arrives in your mailbox, sit down and read it from cover to cover. When you learn something you didn’t previously know, share that knowledge with a co-worker. Being an active union member doesn’t have to be a heavy lift. Being engaged in our union means you will be able to more fully take advantage of what we offer, whether it’s education through the AFSCME Free College Benefit, scholarships for our kids, security for our families through the CSEA $10,000 Accidental Death Benefit, or all the rights and benefits available through our union contracts.
Second, show you’re a proud union member. It’s easy to identify first with the work we do before we identify as being CSEA. There’s no need to be an undercover union member. Let’s take a page from our brothers and sisters in the building trades unions and proudly promote who we are. In my case, I’m not just an electrician, I’m a proud union electrician. We have job security, workplace safety, and other benefits not because of the generosity of management, but because we’re union. Make sure your friends and family know you’re proud to be CSEA. Show our strength by standing with other unions when they have strikes or informational picketing. Being vocal about why it’s better to be union is the only way we’re going to combat the continued assault by the people at the top on working conditions, pay, benefits, and collective bargaining rights.
Finally, I’d like to invite you to celebrate our strength. I’m inviting each and every member of our Southern Region to join us in walking in the New York City Labor Day Parade on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019. We will kick off marching at 1:15 p.m. from our meet-up location of West 48th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues in Manhattan. We’ll have t-shirts for those marching with us.
If you’ve never experienced this parade, this is the year to do it. The size, spirit and energy of this parade are a reminder of what a force we are as union members when we stick together. The people with deep pockets seeking to break unions are no match for our strength in numbers.
Happy Labor Day.