As Americans, we celebrate 244 years of independence this weekend. We honor almost 2½ centuries of self-determined freedom, governed by the rule of law, a beacon of hope for the world.
In 2020, we’re celebrating without a lot of the parades and fireworks and barbecues and other gatherings we’re used to. The coronavirus has made this an unprecedented year, especially for the hard-working union brothers and sisters whose entire industries were shut down or wiped out to maintain public health and safety. Meanwhile, essential services and core industries are still up and running because of our frontline heroes. Their battles today are every bit as important as the Minutemen’s in 1776. Their victories today will lead to a bright tomorrow for all of America.
Our Founding Fathers declared that all people are created equal, with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But it was our Labor Movement that made the Founders’ promises come true: Life, through safe workplaces, health care benefits and an end to child labor. Liberty, through the 40-hour workweek and weekends like this. The pursuit of happiness, through fair wages that built the middle class.
In these turbulent times, our cherished, shared union values of solidarity and justice for everyone can make the Founders’ other promise – equality for all people – become a reality. We must stand together to eliminate the culture of systemic racism and the many prejudices that still plague our beloved nation.
After months under stay-at-home orders, we may be tempted to see this season and this holiday as an excuse to declare the pandemic over, to say we’re back to normal. True solidarity, however, means making sure everyone is respected and cared for, especially through simple actions like wearing masks and staying six feet apart.
God bless the American Labor Movement and all our citizens of every race, color, creed and identity. May the next 244 years benefit from the labor values we champion today at the New Jersey State AFL-CIO.