On Labor Day, Working Families Gird for Election of a Lifetime

The stakes on Election Day for working families have never been higher.

On a normal Labor Day, the Texas AFL-CIO would celebrate our history. We would focus on how speaking up together consistently garners working people better pay and benefits and on how unions agitated for the 40-hour work week, paid sick leave, Workers’ Compensation, Unemployment Insurance, Social Security, civil rights and voting rights, health care for the masses, etc., etc., etc.

Our movement’s accomplishments remain relevant, but this is not a normal Labor Day. We are not in a normal time in history. This may be the last moment voters can repair the damage before we are too far gone.

At our best, labor unions transcend pay and benefits. We can apply the leverage of united voices on matters of justice, safety, and even life and death. In 2020, the whole future is up for grabs.

The pandemic has placed unions in the forefront of demands by frontline workers — the ones who have no choice but to show up at the job, the ones who have maintained services we cannot do without  — for workplace safety. We insist that our government demand and enforce clear, science-tested standards for workplaces. We insist employers follow doctors’ advice and minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19, without cutting corners. We insist, for the health of us all, that every worker have access to earned paid sick leave.

Unions have agitated for economic justice as the virus creates havoc. The $600 weekly federal payments to working people who lost jobs through no fault of their own, along with stimulus checks, staved off poverty. Letting the payments expire jeopardizes tens of millions of households. The proposed HEROES Act would restore help for unemployed Americans and, just as importantly, would shore up institutions that have lifted people from disaster, including local governments, health care facilities and the U.S. Postal Service. The U.S. House passed the HEROES Act three-and-a-half months ago. It is past time for the U.S. Senate to act, rather than empower a “herd immunity” strategy by a President who takes counsel from an advisor who thinks it would be better just to let COVID-19 run its course and kill multiples of the ghastly death toll we have already seen.

The unions of the Texas AFL-CIO have demanded racial justice, condemning police violence against Blacks, scapegoating of immigrants, and schemes to undermine the fundamental right to vote. We are outraged that the White House and Texas have turned back the clock on civil rights and voting rights. We believe this election must advance a reckoning on matters that undermine true, inclusive progress for our nation. Our nation’s narrative must include everyone or it serves no one.

As Labor Day rings the bell for the last lap of the political season, the Texas AFL-CIO is running our biggest, boldest electoral program in generations. To elect candidates who will fight for working families, we are strategically targeting 700,000 voters who will make a difference across Texas through their ballots. We have ramped up our Fair Shot Texas PAC to an unprecedented level. 

This time feels different and never more important. Your vote can change Texas, change America and change the world.

Rick Levy is President and Montserrat Garibay is Secretary-Treasurer of the Texas AFL-CIO, a state labor federation whose 240,000 affiliated union members advocate for working families in Texas.