In the face of growing attacks from wealthy special interests and billionaires, union members and their allies held Labor Day weekend celebrations of the vital contributions workers make to life in Central Valley, Central Coast, and Silicon Valley.
Four Labor Day events and marches were organized by SEIU Local 521 in North Central California with allies at a time when workers across the country are rising up against anti-union politicians and policies.
According to a recent study by the UC Berkeley Labor Center, our unions help improve the wages and benefits of all workers in California – both union and nonunion – as well as help address racial and gender inequality. On average, California’s union women earn 26% more than nonunion women. Similarly, Black workers earn 19% more and Latino/a workers earn 40% more on average under a union contract.
Labor Day 2018 was an incredible display of unity across our local as SEIU 521 union members, family childcare providers, community leaders, and elected officials came together to celebrate the victories and history of the labor movement.
The Labor Day BBQ & Solidarity March in Bakersfield drew nearly 500 community members from 22 different unions across Kern County that came together and highlighted the victories of the labor movement. The celebration included a march and rally that energized the crowd of county and hospital workers, families and community leaders. There were various community resources booths along with a voter registration booth.
Community Leader and Labor Rights Activist Dolores Huerta shared her experiences from the Farm Worker Movement and encouraged attendees to stand with unions in the upcoming November Election: “We have to hold politicians accountable and ensure they are working on behalf of our hard-working communities. Let’s continue to educate our new generation on the importance of unions. We have seen the power of collective organizing – it can be done, Si Se Puede!”
Fresno Family Child Care Providers, along with members of SEIU 1000, SEIU 2015, SEIU 521, and Mi Familia Vota joined together at Court House Park in Fresno on Labor Day to demonstrate the power of unity in the face of attacks on working families. We honored the victories and rights gained through the labor movement of our past while vowing to stick together for the good, union jobs America needs.
SEIU 521 Local President Gwyn Harshaw closed the ceremony with a message to the community as the midterm elections approach: “Working people in our area from all walks of life are sticking together to fight for our future, just like we won better wages, safer workplaces, and civil rights in our past. By joining together, we can elect leaders who work for all of us, not just the wealthy few. We thank our elected officials and candidates who stand with us here today, but it is up to us to hold these individuals accountable.”
Our Labor Day rally in Fresno included City of Selma Mayor Jim Avalos, Tulare County Board of Supervisor Eddie Valero, Assembly Woman Anna Caballero, Candidate for State Senate District 12, and Andrew Janz, Candidate for Congressional District 22.
The celebration in San Jose on Saturday, September 1st, included voter registration and speeches that energized the crowd of county workers, child care providers, fast food workers, and community leaders.
“Union workers are public servants, transportation workers, healthcare and behavioral health specialists, private-sector workers, child care providers, school workers, and more. Silicon Valley is a better place to live, work, and raise a family because of the difference our unions make in this community. But that’s not all. At a time when some seek to divide us, we lift all workers up, so that we can provide better lives for our families, whether Black, white, or brown. That’s why we have reclaimed Labor Day as our holiday. Today, we celebrate the victories and history of the labor movement, while especially recognizing the contributions our unions make right here in Silicon Valley,” said SEIU 521 Secretary and Santa Clara County Worker Mullissa Willette.
Watch the video clip here.
Family child care providers were joined by fast-food workers who lead the successful Fight For $15 campaign to speak about their common fight to have a union and the right to collectively bargain.
“As a Family Child Care Provider fighting for our rights to advocate for our own livelihoods and quality early education, I am proud to see my fellow union brothers and sisters stand beside us today. We know the strength of unions in action, particularly for working women and mothers like us. We know that Silicon Valley and America need unions,” said San Jose Family Child Care Provider Patricia Moran (Fifth in the photo, from right to left).
Watch the video clip here.
Elected officials including Ken Yeager, Santa Clara County Supervisor for District 4, Cindy Chavez, Santa Clara County Supervisor for District 2, Priya Mathur, CalPERS Board President, as well as many candidates, all publicly expressed their support for union rights.
“Today, at the beginning of the Labor Day weekend, we celebrate the contributions of union workers to our communities. Unions represent the last frontier for protecting wages and benefits in this country and I am committed to supporting union rights. We should make it easier to join and form unions,” said Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez. Supervisor Cindy Chavez also encouraged everyone to share their #UNION story.
This event was also attended by partners and allies who set up booths for the community including Fight for $15, SEIU United Service Workers West (SEIU-USWW), Santa Clara County Democratic Party, Valley Medical Center, Santa Clara County Vector Control, Valley Transportation Agency, Gardner Health Services, and SEIU Latino Caucus.
Hard-working people from Monterey, Santa Cruz, and San Benito Counties rose up and celebrated the vital contributions we make to life on the Central Coast during our community’s Labor Day event.
“Our union not only helps us serve the community and provide for our families, but our strength lifts the wages and benefits of all workers in California – both union and nonunion,” said Alicia Metters, an SEIU 521 member and Social Worker for Monterey County Social Services. “By rising up and standing together, we’re helping to address racial and gender inequality and build stronger communities. We’re all in this together – the fight for good, union jobs is for all of us.”
SEIU 521 members were joined by union members from across our community, including Family Child Care Providers who are fighting to have a union and the right to collectively bargain.
“We are fighting for a system that ensures all parents have access to dependable care and all providers earn livable wages and a strong, united voice on the job. We demand that all children get the strong start they deserve and that providers receive the training, resources, and living wages they deserve,” said Anna Rodriguez, an SEIU 521 member and Family Child Care Provider from Watsonville. “Labor Day is our time to be inspired by the hard-won victories of the past that were possible because of workers like us and to look towards the future with the knowledge that with hard work, a better world is possible.”
Central Coast union members were also joined by many local elected officials and 2018 candidates for office, including US Representative
Jimmy Panetta, Assemblymember Mark Stone, Santa Cruz County District 1 Supervisor John Leopold, Santa Cruz County District 4 Supervisor Greg Caput, Monterey County District 1 Supervisor Luis Alejo, and others. These elected leaders shared their support for working people and our unions, as well as for Family Child Care Providers who are currently fighting for collective bargaining rights.
“I am proud to stand on this stage with SEIU 521 Family Child Care Providers. For too long, Providers have not received the support, pay, or benefits they deserve,” said Assemblymember Mark Stone (D-Monterey Bay), who represents California’s 29th Assembly District. “Hardworking people everywhere deserve a union and a voice, and these providers are no exception.”