A Message From Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa
The first national Labor Day was celebrated six days after workers were killed in the Pullman strike of 1894. The federal government recognized the need to acknowledge the contributions of this country’s workforce and declared the first Monday in September a national holiday.
We’ve come a long way from the conflict and strife that our predecessors in the labor movement successfully fought against. But today, we face forces that still want to destroy what workers fought so hard to achieve.
Wealthy corporations and fat-cat CEOs have always wanted to disrupt the progress of the middle class. We saw it then and we see it now. In the past year, corporate-backed politicians have mounted the most vicious anti-union attacks in memory. Government workers in Wisconsin and Ohio were stripped of their collective bargaining rights. Right-to-work-for-less laws to destroy unions are being pushed in New Hampshire, Michigan and Indiana.
The ultimate goal of these extremist politicians is to further concentrate wealth and power in the hands of a few. After all, it’s those wealthy few who pay for their political campaigns, court them when they’re in office and hire them when they retire from public life. Giveaways and tax breaks for corporations are being underwritten by cuts to essential services like public education and health care in Michigan, Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin. Already those states’ economies are suffering, with unemployment on the rise.
These elite few may have money, but we have the numbers. Traditionally, through our perseverance and will, we have prevailed. The labor movement has fought for and won the 40-hour work week, the weekend, anti-child labor laws and health insurance. Labor unions raise workers wages, give them a voice on the job and protect them from financial and medical insecurity. They help turn a job into a good job, which, in turn, creates more good jobs. Well-paid, secure workers spend money in their communities. They support local businesses, which can then grow and hire more workers.
As families gather around the barbeque or attend parades this weekend, I encourage Teamsters to do more than just remember those who have come before us. I call upon all Teamsters to honor the legacy of our ancestors by getting involved, staying educated and joining DRIVE. Unions will never be able to outspend powerful multinational corporations, but we can deliver votes to lawmakers who will work hard for working Americans.
This Labor Day, I hope all Americans remember that the hard work and sacrifice of working men and women is what makes this country great. And I hope all working men and women remember how much more we can achieve if we speak with one great and powerful voice.