Labor Day is a distinctly American holiday, created by workers to pay tribute to our Nation's workforce and acknowledge its role as a source of America's strength, freedom and leadership. It is also a day devoted to acknowledging and celebrating the rights and the triumphs that the labor movement has gained over the last couple of centuries which benefit all American workers.
But on this Labor Day 2012, the celebrations are unquestionably more subdued. Far too many Americans today are still unemployed or underemployed. Many have exhausted their families' savings and credit just to keep their heads above water. And, for the first time since the Great Depression, the American Middle Class has been losing ground for more than a decade.
Regrettably, the idea that living standards in America will inevitably improve from one generation to the next is under threat. Many of the traditional bedrock assumptions associated with the American ideal — about work, progress, fairness and optimism — are being shaken to their core by the continued ascendancy of a radical right wing political ideology that is blissfully unaware (or worse, uncaring) of the immense struggles that continue to plague American workers.
And that is why, on this Labor Day 2012, politics will, and must, occupy center stage.
What's at stake in the upcoming presidential election, in terms of the Romney-Ryan economic plan, is nothing more than what some analysts are calling, "the largest redistribution of income from the bottom to the top in modern U.S. history."
And if that weren't enough, the Romney-Ryan platform explicitly embraces an expanded foreign guest worker program that would further exacerbate joblessness among American workers - especially American construction workers.
So, it is in that context that I urge all Building Trades members not to treat this Labor Day as just another holiday where we receive a day off from work, and instead take the time to look at and appreciate what is happening to the American Middle Class, and to take meaningful action between now and November 6 to make America worthy of its great ideals and traditions; or, as the great labor leader Samuel Gompers once said: "in opening opportunities that all alike may be free to live the fullest."
That is what this holiday is really about.