May Day Reflections on Labor Rights
By Jose Vargas
My mother was a member of the United Federation of Teachers in New York City where we served as an educator and fierce union advocate for over 35 years. I followed in my mother’s footsteps, knowing I wanted to do my part to advocate for labor rights and create a more just world.
Before I became Executive Director of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), a grassroots labor group advocating for workers’ rights and the intersectional issues they face, I spent 34 years working in education in New York where I was a member of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and New York State United Teachers (NYSUT). And the family line doesn’t stop there. My oldest son now works for NYSUT and is a proud member of Communications Workers of America (CWA).
This May Day, I’m thinking of my mom and her contributions to the movement as I reflect on the need for stronger worker safety laws. There are so many other like my mom throughout the working class, filling essential job roles who must be celebrated on this day of international solidarity. Sometimes with nothing but a thin mask, they have faced the daily dangers of Covid to ensure that our country continues to function despite a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic.
These incredible individuals are usually members of unions who have fought tirelessly for their rights and continue to advocate for expanded protections and higher wages for union and nonunion workers. They are at the forefront of daily skirmishes that call for living wages, dismantling gender discrimination in the workplace and ensuring equal protections and access to opportunities.
Our nation’s labor force is long overdue for essential protections to keep them safe on the job and paid justly for their work. They deserve better. As the Biden-Harris Administration passes their 100-day mark and continues on their journey to Build Back Better we call on them to ensure workers are afforded better, stronger worker protections.
Today, we call on the U.S. Senate pass the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (Pro Act) and implement enhanced worker safety protections for all workers. We also call on these same leaders to end the largest income gap in the nation where Latina workers like my mother earn 55 cents for every dollar earned by white non-Latino men. Latina workers deserve our attention and respect on this matter, especially when we learn that Latinas are more likely to have their wages stolen as well as undocumented workers. And, undocumented immigrant workers and dreamers must be given afull pathway to citizenship via comprehensive immigration reform.
The need for solidarity and action is more important than ever. Whether this is your first experience with May Day, or you’re a veteran in the struggle for workers, we ask that you raise your voice and stand up for workers. Because, in solidarity we will prevail.
Jose Vargas is the Executive Director of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement. You can follow LCLAA at www.lclaa.org.
Covid-19 has hit our essential workers in hospitals, grocery stores, automotive and across working class fields especially hit hard during this global pandemic. Latino, Black and Asian communities, often suffering disproportionately during and even before the pandemic, must see their right to relief and safety realized. Some of these workers, we honored on Workers Memorial Day earlier this week, heroes killed or injured on the job.