For countless Americans, the annual Labor Day holiday means one last day to spend time with friends and family, taking in the final moments of summer before the new school year. While we know as Georgians that our September heat tends to still feel, well, a lot like it did last month, we still celebrate the day at picnics, barbecues and street fairs.
What most people don’t know though is that we would not have this day of rest and relaxation if it weren’t for the tireless advocacy and resilience of America’s labor movement.
That’s why I encourage everyone to take a moment today and reflect on how far we have come to protect and honor working people, and more importantly, why we must keep up the fight now more than ever.
Because right now across our state, working people are standing up, speaking out and fighting back against cruel and unfair working conditions — and big businesses and corporate executives are doing everything in their power to cruelly silence them.
Don’t believe me? Just look at what’s happening at Starbucks stores across the state. I was on the picket line in July, where the brave workers at the unionized Starbucks in northwest Atlanta walked out on the job because the company continues to refuse to meet them at the bargaining table.
Starbucks is just one of countless corporations that claim to be progressive, who call their workers “essential” and say things like, “We can’t live without you!” Yet don’t pay their workers enough or treat them with any respect. This has reached a tipping point, and workers everywhere have had enough.
Listen, I’ve been in a union and a leader in the labor movement for more than 40 years. As the president of the Georgia AFL-CIO, we represent tens of thousands of union members all across the Peach state. I’ve seen it all, which is why I mean it when I say that times are changing.
Our youngest generation of workers are done with an economic system that makes them work twice as hard for half as much in return. Our so-called “essential workers” are done with getting paid in lip service.
A better future for Georgia is coming. I know it. I can feel it. People everywhere are gearing up to elect leaders this fall who know that every Georgian should have the opportunity to prosper, to raise their families and have good education, no matter where they come from. Leaders who know that we can be a state that leads in business and economics and where workers can thrive.
So this Labor Day, in between shifts on the grill or however you’re spending the day, make a plan on how you’ll vote in the coming months, if you haven’t already. Take a moment to honor our workers, those who ensure our groceries get on the table, our packages delivered, our children taught. And think about why, from coast to coast, they are organizing like never before: Because they deserve so much better.
Charlie Flemming is Georgia AFL-CIO president.