Picture 6By: Legislator Toney L. Earl (D- Spring Valley)

Majority Leader

Rockland County Legislature

This weekend marks an annual holiday, the meaning of which, although somewhat lost over time, is as strong as it ever was. The celebration of American workers is the only legal holiday created to honor the tens of millions of hard-working Americans who built this country and keep it strong.

The formation of unions created incredible progress for America’s workers. Fair wages, safety standards, and a 40-hour workweek are now all basic rights that every American citizen is entitled to. However, it wasn’t always like that. The fight to gain those rights was secured through the tragic deaths and incredible sacrifices of people who risked – and often lost – everything.

I’ve been a proud union member – and leader – for most of my life, but it’s important to understand that today, ALL American workers are protected by labor laws. Although begun by unions, Labor Day is not only a celebration of employees who belong to any union – large or small. It is enjoyed by everyone, and rightfully so.

Today, work conditions in all industries are greatly improved, and people go to work knowing that they will receive the fair wages and benefits they agreed to. However, even now, almost 125 years after the first National Labor Day was celebrated, there are those who want to roll back the progress and the security that American workers have achieved.

Labor Day reminds us that no individual should ever have to fear losing the pension or benefits they worked a lifetime for. While some may make such awful proposals, we must all work to protect each other – in government and in the private sector. If one group gets something taken away, it creates a precedent that can be repeated through all industries.

As a County Legislator, I have seen the incredible work of the hundreds of County employees who help deliver needed services and “keep the wheels turning.” I have also seen our local private businesses, which employ anywhere from one to 100 workers. Every worker deserves protection, and we must all protect each other.

Not far from all of our homes, a new generation of laborers is building the next generation of infrastructure. The new Tappan Zee Bridge will be the widest bridge on Planet Earth, and will only exist because of the same laborers who gave us Labor Day. It is a reminder that the ideals that created it, while distant in our national memory, are alive and with us every day.

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