Walsh to union members on Labor Day: We’re in a fight that we can’t afford to lose

Following are excerpts from Mayor Martin Walsh’s remarks at the Greater Boston Labor Council gathering on Monday:

Happy Labor Day everyone! I am proud to be mayor of the city with the strongest labor community in the country! This is the day we celebrate that community—the community of organized labor and the community of all working-class families. This is the day we honor those who came before us, who put everything on the line to win our rights. And let’s not forget those still fighting for their rights—like the men and women of the locked-out USW gasworker locals.

You know how much this community means to me. The labor movement gave my immigrant family a fair shot at the American Dream. You gave me the second chance I needed. You stood with me at every step of my journey. I will always be grateful.

But this Labor Day, we have to do more than celebrate past progress. We have to fight to defend it and to advance it, because today, too many Americans aren’t getting a fair shot or a second chance. Wages aren’t keeping up with inflation. Health care and college are getting more expensive. An opioid crisis is shattering families. Working people are falling behind. The middle class is shrinking. And the party in power in Washington not only isn’t listening—they are the ones launching these attacks.

I see it every day as mayor of Boston. No matter how much progress we make, no matter how many wins we get for working people, what happens in Washington is hurting us. From immigration, to climate change, to health care, infrastructure, workers’ rights and labor regulations—everything is under attack and all that we’ve gained is at stake.

That’s why I went to Ohio, Indiana, and Iowa this summer. I was the first Massachusetts politician in history to visit the Iowa State Fair who’s not running for president. I don’t know if they believed me.

No, the truth is, I wanted to visit the places where Donald Trump won in 2016. We are in a national fight to win back Washington for working people and rebuild the middle class. And I wasn’t about to sit on the sidelines.

I wanted to talk to working-class people there and I wanted to help the labor leaders and the Democratic candidates who are fighting to win their districts, win their Statehouses, and win back Washington for working people on Nov. 6.

I talked to a lot of rank-and-file workers. And they didn’t all believe that new political leadership was going to make a difference in their lives. Too many workers are still not engaged in the fight. Frankly, it’s the same conversation I’ve had here in Boston with too many of our union members. After all that we’ve seen in two years of this White House, there’s still a disconnect. We still have a lot of work to do.

As a former union leader myself, I know an endorsement and a check aren’t enough. We need to go out and educate our members about why we vote for pro-labor Democrats. Show them who really stands up for working families, who fights for health care and schools, who fights for better wages, and how we get those wages by standing together. Let them know: collective bargaining didn’t always exist. It took generations of struggle. And we’ve seen how it can be taken away.

That’s the goal of the Supreme Court’s “Janus” decision: to break up collective bargaining for public employees, to cut their pay, and destroy their power. And guess who they’re coming for next? Every other union worker. And when unions are weakened, working people lose. That’s the lesson of the last 50 years.

We’re at a turning point in this country. It’s a time to fight hard and take nothing for granted. We should not assume that every Democrat will support us on every issue. We have to go out and educate every elected official and explain to them what’s at stake for our members and for all working people. We have to build up working people’s champions at every level of government—just like we are building up labor champions in every state of the union. We need to elect people who share our values and will work with us in good times and in tough times as well.

On this Labor Day, my message to fellow workers, here in Boston and across America, is clear: Don’t be fooled, don’t be divided, and don’t be defeated any longer. It’s time to stand together and fight back. It’s time to bring union members and all working people back into the Democratic Party—to save their rights and to save this country.

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