A Labor Day Message from IAM President Tom Buffenbarger

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On August 28, 2013, tens of thousands converged upon Washington, DC to mark the 50th anniversary of the historic 1963 March on Washington, the setting of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

The IAM is proud to have been part of such an historic moment.

For many, the week’s events were a celebration of Dr. King, the march and its many accomplishments; a look on how far we’ve come. But, as was made so evident in speech after speech, in conversations with persons next to you, the words of others heard in passing, and on the thousands of signs and t-shirts that blanketed the National Mall – we still have a ways to go.

In 1963, the march was about jobs, freedom and the right to vote. Though many battles have been won, 50 years later, the fight rages on. The dream has not yet been fulfilled.

As we prepare to celebrate the 126th Labor Day, our celebration is also two-fold. This Labor Day, we celebrate the economic and social contributions of workers. We celebrate the good jobs won, livable wages earned, health and safety requirements put in place, and workplace fairness achieved. We celebrate the courage and defiance upon which our movement was founded.

But in this moment we also take inventory – this one, of a task not yet completed. The promise of a good job, a livable wage, health and safety, and workplace fairness is not yet enjoyed by every working American. Those who enjoy the benefit of a union contract are fighting tooth and nail to keep it.

From Wisconsin to Indiana, New Jersey and Ohio, the right to bargain collectively is under attack. Under the guise of fiscal responsibility and austerity, Republican governors and state legislatures have launched repeated assaults on public-sector unions and their members’ right to join a union. City workers in Detroit and the pensions they’ve paid into and rightfully earned have unjustly become scapegoats for the Motor City’s bankruptcy.

Private industry is rife with an anti-worker agenda of its own. Feverish attempts to cut workers’ wages, benefits and pensions are spreading from corporation to corporation like the plague. Many claim financial hardship, while at the same time fanning record profits and awarding themselves with astronomical bonuses.

On a national level, more than 22 million people are out of work through no fault of their own. Every American’s right to vote as outlined in the 1965 Voting Rights Act is under assault. And right-wing extremists will stop at nothing until Social Security Insurance and Medicare are completely dismantled.

This Labor Day, let us remember the great accomplishments of those in the labor movement who paved the way for us. But let us also resolve to do the same for the next generation. Let us organize. And let us continue the fight for good jobs, fair wages and a secure retirement for every American.

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