Hundreds of local union members joined together at Jastro Park to rally in support of workers on this labor day. Those who participated in Monday’s rally, including farm workers, healthcare specialists, child care providers, veterans, among others, say unions have significantly helped workers earn higher wages, better benefits, and more favorable working conditions.
“Unions have done a lot for the working man,” said Juan Contreras, a member of the Service Employees Intl. Union (SEIU) 521 union. “Without unions, there’s no middle class. The one percent will get more and more and the working class will get nothing,” he continued.
Also in attendance were political candidates and public officials. labor leader and activist Dolores Huerta also participated in the rally.
“Union rights are under attack, and especially now in this country,” Huerta, co-founder of United Farmers Workers Union, said.
“Corporations are always attacking labor unions. The majority of the people in the united states are working people…Labor is not a special interest. Labor is the majority of working people. And they deserve to have a living wage, they deserve a retirement income after they’ve finished working, after they’ve given all of their lives to make this country run.”
Opponents say public employee unions are harmful to business and to the economy. Some government leaders argue wage, benefit, and pension demands from unions are too costly for the state and its local governments, and have been responsible for major cities filing for bankruptcy, including Stockton and San Bernardino.
However, those in attendance at Tuesday’s Labor Day rally and barbeque said unions have positively contributed to the lives of Californians.
“Unions have done good for us,” said Imelda Ceja-Butkiewicz, Kern, Inyo & Mono Counties Central Labor Council AFL-CIO President. “Minimum wage, social security, workers comp, safe work conditions, vacation, holidays; unions have done so much. If it weren’t for the unions, we wouldn’t be celebrating what we have today.”