On Labor Day, honor working people

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Labor Day marks the end of summer, of family vacations and long days by the pool. It is a signal that the days of carpooling, Little League and homework are about to commence. While often regarded as a day for one last barbecue, Labor Day is importantly about celebrating the contributions of all working people.

Workers make America run. From nurses and teachers to firefighters and construction workers, we get up every day and work hard to build this nation.

I especially want to honor the hard work of my union brothers and sisters and give thanks for all of the benefits we enjoy thanks to collective bargaining. Benefits like affordable health care, paid leave, job security and wages high enough to sustain a family. None of these benefits would exist without working men and women joining together in unions to fight for a better life.

And while Labor Day is a time to reflect on the incredible achievements of workers, we cannot ignore the fact that it comes during a critical election cycle and an unprecedented number of attacks on the rights of working people at the local and state level as well as in the race for President.

In the race for President, we are facing the most anti-worker presidential candidate in living memory — Donald Trump.

Trump thinks wages are too high, opposes raising the minimum wage, supports deep federal budget cuts that would harm state and local bottom lines, and wants to cut taxes for the super wealthy by an average of $1.3 million a year.

Unfortunately for Connecticut, state Republicans by and large appear to be standing with the candidate that insults workers, women, people with disabilities, and Gold Star families.

What’s more, Donald Trump’s economic plans would drain 38,000 jobs from the state. If that was split evenly across Connecticut, each senate district would lose over 1,000 jobs, destabilizing families and straining our local economy. Senate Republicans claim to care about jobs, but when workers in their districts are threatened, they refuse to put their constituents ahead of their party.

It’s time for workers to speak up together and vote for candidates who will pledge to fix this out of balance economy.

By some measures, America has returned to the Gilded Age. Just as in the 1920s, the bottom 90 percent of Americans earn approximately 50 percent of all income whereas the top 1 percent took in nearly a quarter of all income. Even worse, the top 10 percent hold a colossal 76 percent of all wealth in America leaving the bottom 90 percent with only 24 percent. Not surprisingly, we had the least amount of income inequality in the mid-1900s when union membership was at its highest.

When policies are put in place to weaken workers’ rights, all working people suffer. In fact, nonunion workers are generally hurt more by these anti-worker policies than union members. Recent research shows that nonunion workers lose $109 billion annually due to the decline in unions, which translates to an annual wage loss of $2,704 per worker! For workers without a college degree, the wage loss was over $3,000 a year.

Working people are eager for a path to broadly shared prosperity. And we know the first step on that path is voting for candidates who have a plan to raise wages, grow jobs, and create economic opportunities for all workers.

This Labor Day, let’s honor working families by pledging to support candidates who support us and commit to making our voices heard at the polls. This fall we are voting to elect candidates who believe we deserve higher wages, better benefits, a reasonable work schedule and paid time off when we get sick. We are voting because trade deals should create good-paying jobs here in the United States. We are voting to ensure working people have the protections they need on the job so that we can create safer and better workplaces.

This November, we are voting for a better life.

Lori J. Pelletier is the President of the Connecticut AFL-CIO.

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