It is fitting that we celebrate Cesar Chavez day with the daughter of immigrant union workers at the helm of the Department of Labor – Secretary Hilda Solis.
Sec. Solis, I want to thank you for truly being the new sheriff in town and bringing the change the Department of Labor so urgently needed. Today, working people have a Department of Labor that talks tough AND acts tough on enforcement, workplace safety, wage and hour violations and so many other vital issues.
As we remember Cesar Chavez's legacy, we know that his fights are no less relevant today. Far too many workers struggle for rights and respect in the shadows. They are easily abused and exploited by employers – often because of their status. Whether they were born in this country or have come here in search of a better life, they are owed basic workers' rights, and we are deeply committed to securing those rights.
Manuel Zuniga lives the struggle for those rights every day – he knows about the stolen wages, work without breaks and hazardous conditions. Manuel is on the front lines of the fight for justice as part of the AFL-CIO Steelworkers' California CarWash campaign, and I am proud that we are fighting alongside him,
As a campaign born in the community that aspires to guarantee rights through collective bargaining, the CarWash campaign is a genuine heir to the marriage of community and collective bargaining Cesar championed. So too is the AFL-CIO's worker center project undertaken in partnership with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, National Domestic Workers Alliance, ENLACE, the Immokalee Workers and other worker centers around the country.
Too many of our brothers and sisters labor in conditions like those Manuel faces. Their fight is our fight.
We're especially glad to have a Department of Labor that recognizes and believes in workers' freedom to form and join unions and the essential role unions play in improving working conditions and elevating living standards for all working men and women.
It is good no longer to be seen as an enemy but as part of the team.
We saw the results of this sea change this past weekend as President Obama appointed Craig Becker and Mark Pearce to the National Labor Relations Board – a crucial step in restoring balance and protecting workers' rights.
We saw with the farm workers movement and so many other efforts that when working people come together in a union, it is only the first step. Protecting those rights requires real enforcement so that workers can bargain collectively without fear of reprisal. And it requires passage of comprehensive immigration reform so that our system of law is not an invitation to exploitation.
I know that Sec. Solis is a champion of the Employee Free Choice Act – she was an original co-sponsor in the U.S. House of Representatives. And I am confident that under the Obama administration, with the support of Sec. Solis, we will win the genuine labor law reform workers need.
Sec. Solis has been great about reaching out to the labor movement, listening and having an open door. And she is especially interested in hearing directly from workers. At every event and speaking engagement, you'll see her meeting with workers who are directly impacted by the decisions she makes. Whether she's meeting with laid off workers in Orlando or vulnerable workers in Pittsburgh, she never loses sight of who she's working for. And boy, what a dramatic turnaround that is from the previous administration that ignored workers' health and safety issues and turned a blind eye to violations of workers' rights.
So today, as we celebrate the life and legacy of Cesar Chavez and honor his struggle for workers' rights, I'm excited about the future – even though we have a lot of work ahead of us. And I'm thankful to have a Department of Labor worthy of Cesar's dreams.
Contact: Amaya Tune 202-637-5018
AFL-CIO Media Outreach