Earlier this month I had the honor of speaking at the Convention of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers, or SMART, where I focused on the power of solidarity — a message that is especially important as the nation prepares to celebrate Labor Day.
The belief that working people are stronger together has always been the driving force of the labor movement, and it is what powers TTD. Our ability to get things done and to reach members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, comes from the strength and power of our 33 unions and millions of working people standing together, fighting for common goals.
Transportation workers know that whether fighting for safer workplaces, expanding collective bargaining rights, or securing investments in their sectors, the collective power we hold is critical to making life better for working families. And, as I shared with SMART delegates, that kind of solidarity is needed now more than ever:
Sisters and brothers, we are at a crossroads. Unemployment is low. Productivity is at an all-time high. And corporations are raking in profits like never before.
Despite this, too many working families are not able to achieve their middle-class dreams. Struggling to save for a rainy day, anxiety over providing our kids the education they need, and worrying about the rising costs of health care and home ownership are realities too many Americans face. Meanwhile, the introduction of new technologies, the gross misclassification of employees, and the emergence of the on-demand economy, is changing the nature of work itself. And the most important tool working people have to get ahead — union membership — is being vilified and attacked.
The way I see it, we have two choices:
A future where powerful corporations and wealthy CEOs remain unchecked in their power. Where corporate profits are the priority and safety of employees is a mere afterthought.
Or, we can have a future where working families come first. A future where giant corporations and Silicon Valley CEOs are held accountable. Where finding a good job isn’t a challenge and working people take home a fair share of the profits they help create. Where emerging technologies are used to enhance skilled trades work and make working conditions safer across our economy. And where the American Dream — that time-honored idea that if you work hard, you can get ahead – isn’t just a clichéd phrase, but a reality for anyone who wants to put in the time and effort.
The difference between these two realities starts with all of us.
A strong, vibrant labor movement — one that gets in front of change, supports its members, grows its ranks, and stands in solidarity with everyone from the Uber driver to the college professor -- is the only way to create the kind of future we all want and deserve.
This Labor Day, we reignite the call for solidarity, and encourage workers everywhere to come together. By standing with each other, we can build a future where the economy works for everyone.
Larry I. Willis, Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO