By: Labor Council Secretary-Treasurer Richard Barrera
This July, San Diego was chosen as the unlucky location of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) annual meeting, a national gathering of corporate lobbyists and one-percenters like the Koch brothers and Exxon. Our own Mayor Kevin Faulconer joined the roster of attendees, speaking alongside anti-union GOP presidential hopefuls Scott Walker, Mike Huckabee and a host of other right-wing millionaires.
While these special interests groups were preparing to wine and dine conservative lawmakers, plotting strategies to bolster corporate profits at the expense of decent wages, affordable healthcare and retirement security for working people – we were getting organized.
On July 22nd, over 2,000 working people, environmentalists, women’s rights activists, immigration advocates and leaders in the #BlackLivesMatter and Fight for 15 movements stood shoulder to shoulder outside ALEC’s meeting to declare California a “No ALEC Zone!”
Nurses, teachers, janitors, homecare workers and countless others spoke passionately about the importance of strengthening the middle class, reducing income inequality, creating good jobs, expanding access to healthcare, and protecting the right of workers to form and join unions.
That same afternoon, while we rallied to keep the regressive, union-busting policies Scott Walker and his cronies have implemented in Wisconsin out of California, our Fight for 15 brothers and sisters in New York City were celebrating the wage board’s ruling to raise their wage to $15 an hour.
Change is on the horizon.
Working people have already begun redefining our economic and policy agenda. Over the last year, we have taken a stand against the injustice of flawed trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the elimination of overtime pay for hard-working homecare workers. We have worked to repair our immigration system through support for programs that keep our families together like DAPA and DACA, and rallied thousands behind the Fight for 15.
Although we have experienced some incredible success this year, our work is far from finished. Even with full time work, two in five San Diego households still can’t afford to make ends meet. More than 300,000 households, over a third of working households, have incomes too low to cover basic expenses. One in four children and one in six adults doesn’t know where their next meal is coming from.
2016 will be a year of political action. It’s time for us to close the gender gap and raise the minimum wage. It’s time for us to elect candidates who will protect working families values and good-paying American jobs. It’s time to change the rules and bring lasting economic balance so that every family can pursue the American Dream and work for a better life.
This Labor Day, we celebrate the working people who built the San Diego and Imperial Counties and who keep our communities healthy, clean and functioning. The future holds great things for us.
Happy Labor Day!