On Labor Day and every day, working people must stand together

September 4, 2017 News
Mayor Marty Walsh

Labor Day is about family for me.

The Labor Movement gave my immigrant family our shot at the American Dream. And it made us part of a bigger family. When I got cancer as a kid, I had healthcare because of the Labor Movement. When I needed treatment for alcoholism, I got it because of the Labor Movement. The labor family has always been there for me. That’s why I still carry a union book in my pocket. I never forget where I came from.

As mayor, I’ve worked to build a Boston where everyone gets the support that labor gave me. From a living wage, to career apprenticeships, to free community college, to women’s pay equity, I’m fighting for a Boston that works for every worker. A Boston for all of us.

Leading with labor values hasn’t slowed us down. In fact, Boston’s economy has never been stronger. We’ve added more than 60,000 jobs since 2014. More people are working in our city than at any time on record. Local businesses are thriving and new employers are flocking here.

At City Hall, we built trust with our public employees, and performance is improving across every department. We put up perfect triple-A bond ratings 4 years in a row, the first time it’s ever been done in the City of Boston. Leading with labor values, the City has never been in better shape.

We know there’s a lot of work left to do, to include everyone in our city’s success. That’s why we’re building a Boston for all of us. When our city is united, and we all look out for each other, anything is possible.

Two weeks ago, we showed the world the power of that unity, when we took a stand against hate, from Roxbury to Boston Common. Workers of all races, and unions of all kinds, stood together in solidarity. At a time when America is polarized, we came together. At a time when Washington is moving backwards, we moved forward. At a time when cities must lead, Boston is the leader of cities.

Along the way, we’re proving that an economy is stronger when workers have a voice and a city works better when it works for everyone.

That’s the work I’ve been doing every day for four years, and plan to keep doing every day for the next four years: fighting for good jobs, great schools, and safe neighborhoods; fighting inequality worker by worker, family by family, neighborhood by neighborhood, as only a mayor can do; and building a future Boston that grows to meet working people’s needs for decades to come. We made Boston’s first citywide plan in over 50 years a working people’s plan, with good jobs in every neighborhood. We’ll fight for that future together.

The truth is, we do have a fight on our hands. We’re facing one of the most anti-worker White House administrations we’ve seen in our lifetimes. Just look at the record.

There was hope for an infrastructure plan to rebuild our roads and bridges and create jobs. Instead we got months of trying to rip health care away from millions of Americans — denying their basic, fundamental, human right. We heard noise about funding for opioid treatment. Instead we got a budget that would gut the medical research we need to fight addiction. And whatever happened to “fixing Washington”? Instead, we got threats to shut down the government over a wall that we still don’t need and still have no plan to pay for. And those are just the things they haven’t been able to get done.

But don’t be fooled. They’re still doing plenty of harm — especially to working people. It hasn’t made much news, but it’s the worst rollback of labor rights in decades. Overtime expansion, stopped. Safety protections, pulled. Job training, cut. Federal contractors with labor violations? Sure, why not. Local hiring on federal infrastructure? Not anymore. They can bring in underpaid workers from halfway across the country.

And two weeks ago, just days before the hurricane hit? They rolled back flood standards for roads and bridges. Think about that as you watch the scenes from Texas, and our sea level continues to rise here in Boston.

The list goes on and on and on. And it will keep getting longer. The new Supreme Court justice voted against labor his entire career. And he will be doing so for decades to come, long after Trump is gone.

Some people wonder why I get so fired up about what’s happening in Washington. Let me tell you why I won’t ignore what this White House is doing. These cuts hurt Boston’s people and Boston’s neighborhoods. These attacks are aimed at the working people who always stood by me. This White House is taking direct aim at every American worker, their children, their grandchildren, and their futures.

They’re not just enacting policies that hurt. They are trying to divide and deceive working people, so we can’t fight back. Listen to how this president talks about the American people. He attacks women. Attacks transgender service members. Attacks public housing residents. And he attacks immigrants again and again, immigrants like my mother and my father.

Think about that for a second. Unless you are Native American, every one of us is from somewhere else. Many of our ancestors were undocumented, by the way. And when they got here, there were people who didn’t want them here. They didn’t want the Irish. They didn’t want Italians. They didn’t want Jewish people here. They didn’t want Chinese people here. And now, a small but recently empowered minority don’t want Mexican people, and South American people, and Muslim people here either.

It’s not new. It’s the same divide-and-conquer playbook as ever. It’s about driving a wedge into working-class communities and driving a stake into working-class power. And too often, it’s having an effect. It’s being used to take rights away, as we speak. The president pardons a sheriff who brutalized Latino workers, the same week they roll back rules that protect all workers. They target one group so they can pick the pockets of everyone else.

They know we’re too strong when we stand together. That’s why they work so hard to separate us. When we stand together, we win.

Politics doesn’t have to divide working people. From the State House to City Hall, I have always been a champion of labor. And I’ve also stood up for gay and transgender rights, for women and people of color, for immigrants, and all those who are are marginalized and targeted just for being who they are. I have never seen any contradiction in these roles. Rights aren’t just for some of us, they are for all of us. I learned that in the labor movement.

Labor has an answer that goes way back to its roots. It’s called solidarity.

I talked about what labor meant to my family. It was more than a paycheck. It was a promise. It said that no matter who you are or where you’re from, whether it’s Ireland or Italy, Mexico or Colombia or El Salvador, Africa or the Middle East, you are one of us. And when they come for one of us, they’re going to have to deal with all of us. That’s what built America’s middle class: from the job site, to the picket line, to the ballot box. We stuck together.

So the way we fight back doesn’t start in Washington. It starts right here in our community, as we come together on Labor Day. It’s time to take a stand for true solidarity, once and for all.

Whatever your race, religion, or gender, wherever you were born and whomever you love, whether you work at a building site, an office, or a classroom, in a hospital, or a hotel, or in someone’s home, patrolling our streets in a squad car or protecting our homes in a fire truck: working people have the same needs and the same rights. Living wages. Quality health care. Financial security for a comfortable retirement.

To get those things, workers need something more. They need solidarity. That’s why we stood with the nurses on the picket line in July. That’s why we stand with the MBTA machinists as they fight for their jobs. And that’s why we do more. We stand with workers who are not in unions, in the Fight for $15 and the fight for paid family leave and in all the work that unions like SEIU 1199, 32BJ, UNITE HERE Local 26, and so many other workers and activists are doing to build an economy that’s for all of us.

Solidarity is not just for organized labor. It’s for all working people. That’s not an obligation, it’s an opportunity. Labor can do more than play defense. Labor can lead. The Labor Movement can offer a positive vision of an economic system that works for all workers.

The same way labor had my back, the same way unions have their members’ backs, all working people should know that we as a community have their back, not just at a rally, but every single day.

Our nation’s future depends on it, just as much as those workers do, because history is clear: working people rise together and fall together, struggle together and win together. When we get enough people to see that, the conversation in our country will change. We will move forward as a stronger, more united, and more just America.

That’s our mission in Boston. In four years, we’ve come a long way. But there’s more work to do. We’re building a city that works for every worker. We’re showing a better way forward for our city, our state, and our country. And by fighting together, united in solidarity, we will make that vision a reality, on Labor Day and every day.