Greetings union family. As you take time out of your day to read this issue of the Lansing Labor News you will undoubtedly lay it down understanding that we are on the tail end of summer and election season is on the way. While this common theme may seem overwhelming, ensuring the membership is focused on our political process while reflecting on the importance of the recently observed Labor Day holiday is essential to our continued success.
Signed into law by President Grover Cleveland on June 28, 1894, Labor Day is a federal holiday which seeks to recognize the importance of the labor movement in this county. For many it has become synonymous with appreciating all workers and their labor, end-of-summer vacations, or the infamous Labor Dale sale. While we as represented workers should certainly respect and appreciate the efforts of all working-class people, it is my belief that we cannot allow Labor Day to be diluted into “everyone’s” holiday. We should be vocal and visible as we celebrate, and we should not be ashamed to remind folks of Labor Days meaning and history. A history that is marked with controversy as labor and political powers disagreed on how, when, or even if we should celebrate. A history where the holidays existence was subject to the empty rhetoric of Socialism; a tool used against the working class still today. It’s vital the world knows about our holiday, because when we are apologetic unionists, it weakens our influence and our ability to make gains for the membership.
Not to take a back seat to Labor Day celebrations and the winding down of our Michigan summer, the political season is here and something that must be talked about. We may proclaim to hate them, we may even falsely believe that we as unionists shouldn’t be involved in politics, but that doesn’t eliminate the fact that our political process is integral to successful collective bargaining. When fellow unionists or elected leaders take the time to speak about politics the intent is sincere. It’s rooted in the fact that no collective bargaining agreement is immune to the laws and statutes put in place by our elected and appointed leaders. The articles want you to know of the important work that goes into screening candidates who request the backing of labor organizations. Screening that is designed to understand if a person is willing to stand up for labor and its core beliefs. It’s true, we as members can get fixated on the sensational talking points surrounding us and wonder if labor is out of touch with what matters to its members, the simple answer is no.
When we are encouraged to vote it is because data shows there are UAW members who do not. When we are encouraged to be political it is because someone has dealt with the crippling consequences of a dysfunctional NLRB while dealing with member issues. When we are encouraged to support labor friendly candidates regardless of party, it is because we need allies who are at the table. It is because of fair wages, health and safety, dignity, and many other aspects that make up what a unionist is. These are not the top trending topics or the most current conspiracies, but to have any chance at reclaiming the heyday of the highly organized middle class, they must be our focus. Lansing Labor news readers I ask that we embrace the importance of this recent holiday and welcome this upcoming season of politics. We need to quit with the political cynicism because a failure to vote is not an act of rebellion or courage, it is an act of surrender. And no matter whose rights they are, we need to never lose that sense of outrage over the injustice that surrounds us.