Brothers and sisters,
Today, I want to extend my warmest wishes to you, the teachers, school support staff, public servants and healthcare workers of the American Federation of Teachers. Thank you for your commitment, your talent, your hard work, and your service to this country. On behalf of everyone at the Department of Labor, I'm honored to wish all of you a great Labor Day.
Labor Day is the celebration of a promise fulfilled. For generations, the promise of good jobs, fair treatment and wages, and a seat at the bargaining table has sustained the economic security of America’s vital middle class.
Labor Day is also a call to action, a reminder that we must defend that promise to ensure that dignity and opportunity remain the birthright of all workers in this country.
We know what’s at stake, and we know what we have to do.
We have to put teachers back in the classrooms. We’ve come so far in the last 3 ½ years, but we've still got a long way to go. President Obama has called for funding to support 400,000 teaching jobs, including programs that will protect up to 280,000 teachers who are at risk of being laid off due to state and local budget cuts and help rehire tens of thousands of teachers and classified school employees who have lost their jobs.
These jobs don’t just help struggling families, they give our kids a fair shot at success. You do so much to give back to your communities, to support a growing middle class, to care for our loved ones and deliver vital public services. President Obama and I are committed to standing up for our nation’s young people—and that means fighting budget proposals that gut education spending to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy and protecting collective bargaining rights for teachers and public employees. We know that without a world-class public education system, the whole economy suffers.
For me, this Labor Day has added meaning. My dad, who was a proud union member, passed away this year. When I was in ninth grade, he would come home and ask me to sit with him at our kitchen table. From his pockets, he pulled pieces of paper with writing in Spanish on them. They were scribbled messages from co-workers: safety grievances, questions about paychecks that didn't add up, and ideas about how to improve the productivity of the line.
He'd ask me to translate them into English. When I asked what they were, he explained: “They are the voice of the workers.” It was from him, as a young girl, that I learned about the critical need for workers to have a seat at the table.
Today, I honor his memory with a call for unity and strength—a commitment to keep building on our achievements to meet the urgent needs of working families.
One thing is certain: the promise of the great American worker will never be broken. Working together, there's no challenge we can't overcome.
Hilda L. Solis