Sunday, September 13, 2015
Murphy Labor Award on September 3, 2015
Once upon a time
Labor and the Democratic Party walked together in a grand journey for all Americans. When Woodrow Wilson pushed for the right to vote for women, he turned for help to labor. When FDR wanted support for the New Deal, he turned to the unions. When LBJ wanted civil rights legislation, he turned to Walter Reuther and other labor leaders.
Along the road we have posted landmarks for the good life: the forty hour work week, eight hour workday, overtime pay, workers compensation, unemployment insurance, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, family and medical leave, occupational safety, collective bargaining, the minimum wage and child labor laws.
In post World War II, it seemed that we were arriving at our destination of the American Promise: strong union membership, secure employment, a thirty year mortgage on a home to raise our children who would have lives better than ours.
Then side paths and road blocks separated us.
Many who achieved the American Promise went off on social and environmental paths, and those denied that promise charted independent courses.
But our real challenge has come from right wing roadblocks: Reagan firing the air traffic controllers, unionized industries moving to antiunion locations, the growth of nonunion service and tourism jobs, austerity and budget cutting, and the systematic hostility, not only to labor, but to all of us with denial of climate change, refusal to fund reproductive rights, thwarting voter registration, opposing campaign finance reform and doing everything possible to increase income and wealth inequality.
Time for us to regroup.
Perhaps we should be thankful to the right wing for spewing forth positions that unite all of us in opposition.
We will march for publicly financed universal healthcare, labor’s right to organize, the honoring of collectively bargain agreements, environmental protection, a woman’s right to equal pay and reproductive choices, a teacher’s right to strike, care for the ill and disabled, and livable wage jobs available to all Vermonters.
In solidarity, we will be the voices for economic, racial, gender, social and environmental justice.
My gratitude to the Democratic Party for this John Murphy Memorial Labor Award, and to all of you for letting me be part of this journey for all Vermonters to achieve the American Promise.