How We Start Supporting Workers, Again

In this Labor Day Op-Ed, CA-39 Democratic nominee Gil Cisneros lays out his priorities intended to lift up the American worker.

“It is one of the characteristics of a free and democratic modern nation that it have free and independent labor unions. . . When union workers assemble with freedom and independence in a convention like this, it is proof that American democracy has remained unimpaired; it is a symbol of our determination to keep it free”

– President Franklin D. Roosevelt, September 11, 1940.

At the end of WWII America was the largest producing nation and nearly 50% of working people were organized in unions. Unions were both powerful and popular, providing workers with the power necessary to push for better wages, retirement and health benefits, safe working conditions, and overtime protections. The middle-class experienced economic strength like never before, propelling home and car ownership, and giving the average American to live a better life.

As the World rebuilt itself from the devastation of a World at War, however, it began producing. As the 1950s, 60s, and 70s progressed, American companies struggled to compete in the global markets, and unions and the working people they serve began to be left behind. With the rise of “Right to Work” laws, the Supreme Court’s Janus decision, and massive tax breaks for the ultra wealthy and special interests, America’s working class has been repeatedly undermined and ignored. The gap between the wealthy and the middle-class is the largest it has been in the history of the United States, greater than it was during the great depression or the 1970s economic crisis.

No longer.

It is time for government to make amends for the errors of our past. Americans have become desperate for hope.

While I’ve been blessed with incredible good fortune in my life, I’ve never forgotten my roots. My dad was a Vietnam veteran. My mom was a public school cafeteria worker. My brother is a steelworker. I come from a blue-collar family. And we need to work to provide more economic relief to blue-collar families across the country. We need to stop giving the wealthiest portion of the country tax cuts, and instead implement programs to assist working class people: paid family leave, investments in childcare, affordable healthcare, and reduced tuition for higher education or vocational training to anyone who is seeking to better their lives.

Congress needs to stop giving handouts to Wall Street and banks and force them to pay their fair share. While Ed Royce and Young Kim support tax cuts for their billionaire buddies and special interests, I will fight to implement a fair tax system for the middle class and eliminate tax breaks for special interests and big corporations that send jobs overseas.

For families to succeed, we need to support paid family leave. And it’s proven that investing in high quality affordable early childhood education is one of single most transformative things we can do for our children. I will fight for investments in high quality childcare and early childhood programs, including afterschool programs and summer reading programs. And I will fight for women to receive equal pay for equal work.

The backbone of a strong economy is a strong educational system. We need to help people find careers for the 21st century. We need increased investment in education, vocational training and career development, and we need a national infrastructure bill to ensure our businesses and workers can compete in a global economy.

The fight for labor, for the working-class, for hard-working families, is the fight for the dignity and respect that comes with a hard-earned paycheck. Today, across the country, families work hard, look out for one another, and dream big. These families have not stopped dreaming of a better future for the next generation. And they are not going to give up. For the families of America, every day is a fight to reach the American Dream.

These are the families we stand for, the values we stand for. It’s long past time for our country to re-invest in unions and the working class. A fair tax system. Paid family leave. Childcare. Equal pay for equal work. Affordable education. Investments in our infrastructure. That’s how we can lift up America’s working class.

Labor is facing the threat of lifetime under the Trump administration, and it’s up to us to fight for progress. For many Americans, nothing is more important than making sure they get up early, roll out of bed, and go to work, because they need to provide for their loved ones. Now, it’s time that our government provides for working families. It’s time to go to work.

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