Labor Day 2017: America Needs Unions

Taking Back Labor Day

Community activists, union members, and workers across the country came together on Labor Day 2017 for a national day of action to say “No” to a rigged economy and “Yes” to workers’ rights.

Workers took a stand on Sept. 4 to defend our right to unionize and fight for a better future. From Watsonville to Bakersfield, and from Fresno to San Jose, members of SEIU Local 521 and allies called on elected leaders and corporations to stand with working people, to champion our fight to raise wages, and support our right to join unions so that everyday Americans have a fighting chance of getting ahead in our economy.

In Bakersfield, members gathered with the community at the Central Labor Council and then took to the streets for the first Labor Day march in a generation. Eliseo Medina, the former Secretary-Treasurer for SEIU International, joined the march and led the crowd in chants and cheers. “No one is going to give us anything. We only get what we are willing to fight for. We are powerful, we are determined and we will fight!”
View more photos here and check out the news coverage in the Bakersfield Californian and on Bakersfield Now.


In Fresno, the rally at the Hall of Records drew nearly 100 people who called on politicians to address income inequality, the rigged economy, and rising healthcare costs. Mi Familia Vota also directly confronted the recent news about DACA and the fight ahead to make sure that our friends, family members, and neighbors always feel welcome in America. Samuel Molina from Mi Familia Vota said, “We cannot let race divide us. We cannot let class divide us. We cannot let our past divide us. When we are divided, we all lose. America needs an economy and government that helps all working-class families get ahead.”
View more photos here.

In San Jose, the heart of Silicon Valley, nearly 500 people marched and rallied in support of the right to join together in a union, all under the common theme of “Silicon Valley Needs Unions.”

View more photos on our Facebook page, read coverage by ABC7 NewsKTVU – Fox 2The Mercury News, El-Observador, and watch news video clips by ABC7 NewsKTVU – Fox 2, KPIX 5/CBS, NBC Bay Area News.

SEIU 521 Chief Elected Officer Riko Mendez welcomed everyone and reminded us about the importance of Labor Day and unions for workers in San Jose, Silicon Valley, our state and United States. Listen to Riko’s welcome speech here.

Jessica Vollmer
Jessica Vollmer from Working Partnerships USA and Silicon Valley Rising reiterated the need for unions so that we can lift up all the invisible workers that support this tech economy. Listen to Jessica’s speech here.

The day started with a strike and protest at McDonald’s in solidarity with the FightFor$15 movement, and continued with two actions at Dell and Community Child Care Council of Santa Clara, Inc. (4Cs). San Jose workers and the community demanded respect for workers’ rights for a union without fear of retaliation and asked Silicon Valley employers to provide good jobs with living wages.

“Silicon Valley has experienced strong economic growth for the past five years, yet workers in the service industry and child care sector who are the backbone of our tech economy have not seen any of these economic gains, and have been left behind,” stated Riko Mendez, SEIU Local 521 Chief Elected Officer. “Unions are the solution to the inequality and injustice faced by many workers today in Silicon Valley.”

Dell is a large tech firm in Silicon Valley, however, its janitors complained that Dell is denying its responsibility to provide good jobs by hiding behind a contractor. Janitors demanded dignity and respect from Dell, and shone a light on the invisible tech — all these workers that work so hard and are the backbone of Silicon Valley, but get so little in return.

Crowds at 4Cs on Labor Day 2017

Community Child Care Council of Santa Clara, Inc. (4Cs) is the largest tax-payer funded child care agency in the county of Santa Clara. Resource providers at 4Cs who have been struggling to get a contract for almost two years demanded respect and a union so that they can have a voice at work, and be able to improve the child care and senior services they provide to the community without fear of retaliation. Many workers asked for justice for Mario Del Castillo, who despite being a 20-year exemplary worker, has been fired after speaking up about suspected mismanagement at the agency. Listen to Riko Mendez, Fred Brion, and Mario Del Castillo here.

Family child care providers joined in support of 4Cs workers and highlighted that they also need to be able to join together in a union so that they can improve the quality of child care.

Lorena Wright
Lorena Wright, a Family Child Care Provider in San Jose, explained: “As the cost of living in Silicon Valley continues to skyrocket, child care providers like me are barely making it by. We care for other people’s children, but struggle to afford healthcare, retirement or provide the basic necessities for our own children.”
Click here to listen to Lorena.


In Watsonville, over 300 people gathered for a march and rally that featured speakers focused on the vanishing American Dream. Soaring costs of living and healthcare are bankrupting workers in the region and forcing them out. The march stopped at McDonald’s and Wells Fargo to talk about how the system is being rigged against working families. View more photos on our Facebook page, read coverage by the Santa Cruz Sentinel, the Register Pajaronian, watch Spanish TV by Univision, KSBW, and KION.




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