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Labor Day Picnic 2013 speech

Happy Labor Day everyone! Here is the text of the speech I gave at the Wichita / Hutchinson Labor Federation’s annual Labor Day picnic:

On Labor Day, we celebrate the incredible contributions of America’s working people. We honor and recognize the working men and women who built this nation through sweat, sacrifice and innovation.

This Labor Day, we stand united in our belief that everyone deserves a voice on the job, a living wage and a workplace safe from harassment and abuse.

The productivity of working families has powered our region’s growth, but wage growth has not kept pace with the productivity of working families. There is something fundamentally wrong with our economy. The problem boils down to stagnant wages and the lack of middle-class buying power. The way to fix it is to raise wages and labor standards for everyone who works in America.

Raising wages and restoring middle-class buying power are not luxuries that can be postponed until the economy gets better. Raising wages is the only way to make the economy better.

We believe in extending a ladder to the middle class for all who play by the rules and work hard. Union and nonunion; low wage, blue collar and white collar; documented and undocumented—workers are united in the belief that this should be the country of opportunity.

So what is labor day? What do we celebrate? Like so many of our fundamental rights from an end to child labor, to basic job safety, This long holiday weekend has been brought to you by the blood, sweat and tears of the American Labor movement.

We recognize the millions of workers who do not get this holiday off and those who are striking and walking off the job across the country, especially those fast food employees standing up because they hope to raise their families on a livable wage.

If we don’t remember how to stand up and demand that our government invest in the creation good jobs, decent wages and a quality, affordable education system then we won’t have much left to celebrate! We need our elected representatives to enact federal and state minimum wage standards that reflect the values of this country and do not leave people who get up and go to work every day still unable to support themselves and their families.

But most of all - We have a message for Governor Sam Brownback: It’s time for you to stop.

Stop telling us your tax plan is a tax cut when we are paying more for less.

Stop telling us our teachers are the problem when you cut schools deeper than ever before in our history.

Stop keeping secrets. We don’t want your secret judges or your secret meetings at Cedarcrest.

Stop blaming our poor and sick when you’re stripping away the supports they need to survive.

Stop attacking employees and working families when your priorities are corporations and the wealthy.

Let me ask you a question: is the Brownback Tax plan working for you?

It is fair to say that the Brownback tax plan isn’t working for the 360 Spirit employees who will be laid off next month.

It is fair to say that the Brownback tax plan isn’t working for the students of Kansas who have seen school budgets cut.

It is fair to say that Brownback isn’t working for Kansas and its time for new leadership.

We ask our leaders to invest in economic growth from the middle class out, and to respect workers’ freedom to come together in unions to organize and build a better bargain for everyone.

Every day, workers labor and sacrifice to achieve the American Dream. We celebrate this holiday to tell workers everywhere: You’ve earned it!

Thanks to Representative Brandon Whipple, Senator Anthony Hensley, and Representative Paul Davis for speaking at the event. Also a special thanks to all the volunteers who arrived early to set up or cook 500 hot dogs in the 100+ degree heat.

Also thanks to the AFL and from which I borrowed much of this material.