My Turn: Did you think about state workers on Labor Day?

For the Monitor
Published: 9/14/2020 6:00:04 AM

How was your Labor Day holiday? Did you enjoy a New Hampshire state park or campground? Did you travel our state highways, stop at a New Hampshire Liquor Outlet, or enjoy the sand sculpture competition at the Hampton Beach State Park?

Did you notice the workers who helped you and your family enjoy a holiday in the Granite State or think about the essential employees who worked over the holiday weekend?

Did you consider what it means to be on-call as a nurse or firefighter, or think about the teachers and police officers who are increasingly asked to step into social work roles while working-class families struggle to pay rent, afford prescriptions, put food on the table, and find qualified child care while they work?

Hopefully your family had a healthy, safe weekend, but consider the emergency calls that came into our 911 centers? Have you filed for unemployment this year for the first time? Did people answer your questions or come to your aid?

Labor Day 2020 was like no other. We are still in a pandemic, and for more than six months our state employees have put themselves and their families at risk to take care of you, your family, and the community. These employees deliver services so you can have groceries, secure roads, public safety, and health care. They’ve processed your unemployment checks. They’ve put themselves in harm’s way because they understand that you depend on them. And they’ve gone to work without a raise.

Would you have done the same after being passed over for a raise, even though it was recommended that you receive one? After your boss gave himself a $31,000 raise and said you’re “out of touch” for asking for a basic cost-of-living increase, would you risk your life to work during a pandemic? What about your family’s life? That’s what state workers have done.

Please take a moment to appreciate the day you had and the life you’re able to lead through the dedication and service of state employees. Take a moment to remember the first Labor Day held in New York City on Sept. 5, 1882. According to the New York Times account of the parade, “The event was intended to show the numerical strength (of the working class) in order to satisfy the politicians that they must not be trifled with.”

American workers held signs that included slogans like “To the Workers Should Belong the Wealth” and “No Money Monopoly.” The day was a true show of force and part of a larger and determined movement for worker power.

Workers deserve that clarity, power, and solidarity now more than ever. As we reflect on the recent holiday weekend, let us say “thank you” to our workers, both past and present. And, let us all remember to vote on Nov. 3 for leaders who will support the working class, not denigrate it.

(Rich Gulla is president of SEA/SEIU Local 1984.)


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