Far too many of the United State's 80 million workers still don't receive fair wages or adequate workplace protections. This Labor Day, people across the country — in the streets and in Washington D.C. — are joining the call for better labor practices.
In his speech commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington this week, President Obama noted: "For over a decade, working Americans of all races have seen their wages and incomes stagnate." Workplace protection policies for many, including farmworkers, have also remained stagnate — and wholly insufficient. Change is long overdue.
Farm labor is one of the most dangerous professions in the country, yet farmworkers are specifically exempt from federal occupational safety laws that protect other workers. In 1995 the Worker Protection Standard (WPS) was developed to fill that void, but the law has fallen far short.
EPA has been promising to strengthen existing rules for the past 13 years, but the reality in the fields remains the same: farmworkers regularly face harmful exposures to pesticides. An estimated 10,000-20,000 are poisoned each year, and countless more suffer long term health harms.
PAN and our partners have documented, reported and reiterated the weaknesses and shortcomings of the rule since the EPA began its WPS review back in 2000. Now it's time to get them fixed. Will you join us in lighting a fire under EPA?
In a seemingly small but very important move in D.C., Congress recently crafted a deal — led by New York Democrat Charles Schumer and Arizona Republican John McCain — to reinvigorate the National Relations Board (NRBL). For too long, the NRBL had been reduced to inoperative with only one regular member, but in July the Senate confirmed all five members of the board. In response to the good news, Beth Allen, with the Communications Workers of America (CWA) opined, “We will have labor law on Labor Day."
And as Congress moves in the direction of progress, so too do workers around the country, from farmworkers to food workers. And this Labor Day, people in all states are building momentum for real workplace protections and appropriate compensation. They are calling for:
I was inspired by Obama's March on Washington speech this week. He said the right things about the power of organizing and how it has resulted in important policy changes from voting rights to civil rights. And he appropriately linked the unprecedented rise in corporate power (although he called it soaring profits and entrenched interests) with the significant increase in poverty and inequality.
I echo his call to act with courage for much needed change and I hope you'll join me, y todos nuestros hermanos across the country working together to realize the change we need NOW. ¡Sí Se Puede!