In 2017, I worked as a communications consultant for Bob Massie's campaign for Governor of Massachusetts. My duties included interfacing with press and volunteers, conducting policy research, ghostwriting speeches, managing the campaign social media accounts, re-designing the campaign website, and writing statements such as this one:
Each year, as we close the book on summer and march forward into the colder months, we pause to celebrate Labor Day. For many of us, this holiday is a simple and important way to honor the grit that millions of people muster each day as they get up and to go to work.
And yet, the true message of Labor Day is anything but simple.
For generations, people have come to the United States from all over the world because they believed that working hard in America would lead to a better life—for themselves and for their children. This was the promise that emerged from the Great Depression and defined FDR’s New Deal. What made this promise a reality, however, were rules and benefits that resulted from decades of furious and fearless organizing by working people.
The minimum wage, child labor laws, sick leave, and the 40-hour work week were not spontaneously offered to the American people by the captains of industry. American workers had to fight for every one of those benefits. Today, they stand as a testament to progress we have, but also as a warning that such rights and provisions can still be stolen back. Today, to further advance the lives of working people in the Commonwealth, we must stop wage theft, block privatization, and fight for the $15 minimum wage, paid family and medical leave, and the Fair Share Amendment.
It’s one thing for a politician to walk onto a stage and pay lip service to laborrights and economic justice. But it’s quite another to spend your life fighting for these things as an activist and an innovator.
Back in the 1970s, I helped to organize college students in support of embattled textile workers at the JP Stevens company in the South. In the 1980s, I worked with national unions to hold multinational corporations accountable for their impact on local communities. In the 1990s, I mobilized the largest pension funds in the world to force corporations to address environmental destruction and labor violations. I have written award-winning books on economic and racial justice. I have walked picket lines around the state. I have seen how hard it is to achieve victories—and to preserve those victories as big business relentlessly attempts to roll them back.
Today, this 30 year assault on the rights and protections that so many working people fought and died for has brought us to the brink of disaster. Collective bargaining laws have been overturned. Wages stagnate even as profits soar. Our very own governor, Charlie Baker, has labored to place caps on sick leave and to silence the voices of unions in negotiating public contracts.
We know what workers have been able to achieve in the past. The question is what labor and its allies will do in the future. As working people and communities, we have the collective power to build the bolder, more just and progressive economic future that we deserve.
On this Labor Day, September 4th, 2017, to honor the legacy of our ancestors, we—as Democrats and as Americans—must renew our commitment to the battle for labor rights in the United States and around the world.