General President Hite Labor Day 2011 Message
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
On behalf of myself and the General Officers of the United Association, I want to wish all UA members and their families a very happy and healthy Labor Day. This is a special day for union members and all workers throughout North America and a good time to reflect on what the labor movement is all about.
As you know, Labor Day is a holiday that is celebrated and shared by workers in both the United States and Canada. It became a federal holiday honoring working people in the United States in 1894, following continuous lobbying by organized labor. That same year, the Canadian government passed its own law making Labour Day a federal holiday. In both cases, the holiday recognized difficult challenges that workers in each country had faced and overcome in order to secure their basic rights. And, in both countries, we use this time each year to pay tribute to those workers who sacrificed to give us the rights we enjoy, and to reaffirm our faith in and commitment to working people today.
However, while we honor working people, past and present, we must not forget that the cause of labor is an ongoing one and that our fundamental rights as workers must constantly be defended from attack. We are witnessing unprecedented assaults on organized labor in the United States in particular. Some of these have appeared in the form of anti-union legislation introduced in the U.S. Congress, while in other cases, we see campaigns against worker rights in a number of state capitals. In the end, I feel these forces will fail. In recent months, thousands of workers and their unions took to the streets in Wisconsin, Ohio and other states to fight back against these assaults.
The UA has taken a leading role in many of these demonstrations and I cannot tell you how proud it made me to see our members at the forefront of these battles. Due in no small part to this showing of solidarity, more and more Americans are rallying to our defense. I believe that the United States, like Canada, is a country where millions of people still respect workers and that this principle is part of who we are as a people.
We must also remember that many of our brothers and sisters are struggling in some of the hardest economic times in memory. To those members, I say we will survive this storm. At our recently concluded Convention, we unveiled a 5-Year Strategic Jobs Plan to create new job opportunities for all UA members. We’re using this plan to build relationships with project owners and contractors to expand our market share in every way possible to ensure steady employment and good jobs for all of our members.
Our votes in the 2012 U.S. elections, in particular, will be among the most important in our lifetime. They will decide whether we move forward with a president, governors and legislators who will fight for working families and invest in our economic recovery – or elect politicians who see workers as the problem and cuts to Social Security, Medicare and construction as key solutions. The UA’s leadership is needed and, with your help, we’re going to make sure the right people get elected.
As we head into the holiday weekend, I encourage you to think not only of the generations of American and Canadian workers who struggled to secure the important rights we cherish, but also of what we can do, as stewards of the labor movement for this generation. It is our challenge to advance the cause of working families today and ensure that the countries we pass on to our children and grandchildren are ones in which hard work is rewarded and workers are valued and treated with the respect they deserve.
Best wishes for a happy, healthy and safe Labor Day.
William P. Hite