By Israel G. Torres
Labor Day weekend will be very different for many of us this year. Typically, we celebrate the end of summer with backyard barbecues and outings to Salt River, with a nod to the men and women of labor.
This year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, those gatherings may be subdued, but our celebrations can take on new meanings. Let’s celebrate Labor Day 2020 by making a commitment to support essential workers!
When Arizona residents were asked to stay home to slow the spread of COVID-19, essential workers stayed on the job. Workers in the food and agriculture, healthcare, construction, transportation, retail, waste management, communications and utility industries often worked long hours in challenging conditions to keep our families fed, our neighbors healthy, and our communities safe, while jeopardizing their own well-being and financial stability. According to the Economic Policy Institute, 50% of the essential industries have a median hourly wage that is less than the nonessential workforce’s median hourly wage. For example, workers in the food and agriculture industry have the lowest median hourly wage at $13.12.
As you shop for your Labor Day barbecue menu, think about the worker who picked that ear of corn, the driver who transported it to the warehouse, and the grocery store stocker who placed it in the bin. They deserve fair wages and benefits to keep their own families fed and healthy. Also, think about the utility worker who restored power to your neighborhood after the monsoon and the construction worker who is building the expansion of your local hospital’s emergency room. They deserve safe working conditions and quality pay that recognizes their experience and training.
Labor Day celebrates workers and the labor unions that have fought for better pay and safer working conditions for all workers – union and non-union – for generations. While unions continue to fight for workers, you and I need to do more on our part to show we care about the men and women who keep our community strong.
We need to not only thank workers, but also use our powers to make sure that political and business leaders give them the respect, wages and benefits, and opportunities they deserve. We need to elect candidates who enact policies that help workers and their families, and we need to hold them accountable when they don’t. We need to support businesses that value their workers, and walk out the door when they don’t.
Your power lies in the stroke of your pen in the voting booth and swipe of your debit card at the cash register.
Join me this Labor Day by using your power to support essential workers and make sure that they get what they so richly deserve – a better quality of living and opportunities for them and their families to thrive.