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Workers Leave the Pullman Palace Car Works in 1893, a year before the national strike that led to the first Labor Day.

“Society must stand up to powerful people intent on protecting their own interests over the interests of the workers and their families.”

by Kris Organ

Working people in America, even in a time of pandemic and catastrophic fires, celebrate a Labor Day Holiday. Recent events call on us to recognize the essential nature of workers who otherwise serve without living wages, ensconced in workplaces where race is used to weaken our common goals and sex translates to exploitation and further divides that leave justice wanting.  The celebration then is an expression of hope that things will get better.

Everyone really must be treated as essential. If the importance of each worker and the members of their families were truly valued as essential, equality would be the prevalent character of American business today, but it is not. Other nations and other economies have succeeded in protecting their workforce, and in so many ways we fail. Healthcare is a right that doesn’t end because your employer closed. Children have services that protect working parents. Housing does not become a bargaining chip where you must sacrifice food and medicine to remain housed. Even the dignity of just having a job is protected more effectively where employers don’t lay off their workforce in the pandemic.

True worth also speaks to the exploitation we fight at California Civil Rights Law Group (CCRLG). In the multiple cases where sex and/or race becomes the reason for abuse, society must stand up to powerful people intent on protecting their own interests over the interests of workers and their families. The abuses keep happening. We must do what it takes to punish the culprits.

It should not surprise us that Black Lives Matter protests have erupted in the face of pandemic. In a crisis, inequity stands out. Through identifying and confronting inequity, the national discourse can move towards creating a better way. Labor Day was born of the slaughter of American workers during a strike. What was hoped for then is not achieved by having a holiday; it is achieved by the actions we take to build that better way.