Opinion

Labor Day: The value of work

Richard L. Trumka is president of the AFL-CIO./ Richard L. Trumka es el presidente la Federación Estadounidense del Trabajo y Congreso de Organizaciones Industriales (AFL-CIO, siglas en inglés).

It's easy to forget how much each and every one of us do to power our country. The people who drive buses make it possible for nurses to travel to the hospitals where they take care of our families. Our teachers and farmers nourish the minds and bodies of our children and help to cultivate our country's future leaders. Firefighters and police officers and caregivers watch over and protect us. Engineers, construction workers, manufacturing workers and scientists team up to create the buildings, factories, and infrastructure in which we sleep, eat, work and play. And the jobless workers remind us every day how much harder we must work to create jobs that allow our economy to thrive.

In this tough economy, people are working harder than ever and working together, but with a lot less. During the last few years, we've heard a lot of rhetoric about boosting our economy and bringing America back to the top. Elected leaders talk about balancing budgets, creating jobs and finding ways to support the middle class. But so much of that is just talk.

The same people who talk about supporting the middle class have actually taken away the very things that have built up the middle class and kept it strong. As working families struggle to get by, elected leaders led by Tea Party Republicans have slashed funding for Medicaid, veterans, cancer research, law enforcement and a host of other services working families rely on every day. And now they're calling for cuts to core American programs - Social Security, Medicare, and education.

Congress has approved massive tax cuts for the wealthy and for Wall Street that are being paid for by middle-income and poor families. Corporations rake in record profits and enjoy tax rebates while 25 million Americans can't find enough work and many more watch as their wages shrink and their benefits disappear. Meanwhile, state politicians have stripped away collective bargaining rights, one of the only recourses working people have to advocate for fair jobs without fear of retribution.

Is this the way we support the hardworking people of America? Is "rebuilding the middle class" just a code phrase for doing the exact opposite while making the super-rich richer? Does "creating jobs" mean giving enormous tax breaks to corporations while eliminating jobs and slashing wages? And at what point did the jobless become invisible?

Enough talk. We need leaders who won't just talk about supporting working Americans, but who will stand up for and stand alongside working families. Millions of Americans are facing the crisis of a lifetime. We need boldness from President Obama and policies that give Americans the tools to succeed.

Let's make our country what it should be. Let's embrace job-creating investments in our infrastructure: roads, bridges, transit, and green technology. Let's ensure that working women and men have a voice on the job. Let's create an America that provides economic security for our nurses and teachers and bus drivers and health care for our children, parents and grandparents. Let's provide quality education for all of America's children so that we have future leaders who will recognize the amazing work of those that have come before them and give back to their communities.

This Labor Day, let us honor the hardworking people of America not with empty words, but with meaningful, bold actions that help restore our middle class.

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