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D'Asaro: Labor Day was brought to you by the Labor Movement

Teresa D’Asaro
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This year, Labor Day takes on a whole new meaning for our labor movement as workers continue to fight for dignity and respect in the workplace, all while providing essential services on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve also seen employers’ true colors through our global health crisis.

While some sprang into action to protect workers, we had to fight with others to provide basic necessities, like personal protective equipment or even a safe way for workers to report COVID-19 outbreaks without fear of retaliation.

As the Chair of the Maricopa Area Labor Federation representing thousands of union members throughout the county, I can attest to the fact that our labor unions have activated like never before.

Recently our labor movement was rocked by the sudden loss of our longtime leader, AFL-CIO President Richard L. Trumka. While we grieved the loss of our friend and leader, I found comfort in remembering the tremendous victories we’ve won as a labor movement under his leadership.

Knowing workers throughout the country have recognized their power in new ways throughout the past year because of our movement is a true testament to his legacy.

We are far from where workers deserve to be, but it’s important that this Labor Day we acknowledge how far we’ve come. It is because of labor unions empowering workers’ voices on the job, we have fundamental rights like sick leave, child labor laws, the eight-hour workday, weekends, and much more. These were not easy-won battles, they were won through protests, strikes, arrests, and — in some cases  — workers’ lives.

In 2020, the average S&P 500 company CEO made nearly 300 times more than the average worker. It is no coincidence that while CEO pay continues to increase, workers’ wages remain stagnant, and forming a union becomes harder and harder.

Arizona is no stranger to deep-pocket, coordinated attacks on workers’ rights on the job. Thankfully, we have a generational opportunity to change the course of history by creating an economy that prioritizes workers, not greedy corporations.

The Richard L. Trumka Protecting the Right to Organize Act is our way forward. We need the PRO Act to ensure good jobs for all working people. Historically, unions have turned bad jobs into good jobs and good jobs into great jobs in one industry after another.

All working people need and deserve the collective power of a union to help achieve decent pay, secure benefits, flexible schedules, fair treatment, and basic respect and dignity at work. Not surprisingly, Arizonans overwhelmingly agree! In a recent survey by Data for Progress, 65% of likely voters across party lines support the PRO Act.

Union members across the state are calling on Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly to stand with workers and support and co-sponsor the PRO Act. It passed with the U.S. House with bipartisan support and, in the words of our late Richard Trumka, “You cannot claim to stand with workers and not support the PRO Act.”

Labor Day has been a federally recognized holiday in the United States since 1894. For centuries, workers have been the backbone of our country yet the last meaningful labor law protecting workers was passed during the Great Depression.

Workers deserve better. Arizonans deserve better. We deserve to have our two Arizona Senators stand with workers and pass the PRO Act.