Dear Sisters and Brothers:
As you are already aware, this is the first Labor Day in forty years that our union family has not gathered in Massena to celebrate all that the labor movement has accomplished and to rally for our sharedn journey ahead. Where COVID-19 has tested the resolve of the North Country, it has also elevated the relevance of our mission. We all have so much work to do in the months and years ahead.
On this Labor Day, our minds are foremost with our essential workers who have committed so much of themselves over the past six months to help ensure our health, safety and the security of our nation. We owe them our gratitude and one day, in solidarity, we shall return the favor when the need arises. We call so many of them family…
…the teachers and educational staff at every one of our school districts, correctional facilities and psychiatric centers; the nurses and healthcare professionals at all of our hospitals and many of our other health care facilities; all of the civilian employees at Fort Drum; the United Steel Workers at Alcoa, Arconic, Corning and Kraft Foods; the Operators, Mechanics and Electricians at the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation, National Grid, Massena Electric Department, Liberty Utilities and the New York Power Authority; the Operating Engineers working on the Grasse River Remediation project; the Union Carpenters, Bricklayers, Laborers, Painters, Pipefitters and other Trades Men and Women working on so many large construction projects throughout the region; the Teamsters at UPS; the government workers who keep our towns, counties and state running on a daily basis; our law enforcement officers, prison guards and
firefighters; the underappreciated labor service professionals at the New York State Department of Labor and all of our other Union Brothers and Sisters serving in other essential roles.
On this Labor Day, however, we must also direct our attention to the needs of the essential workers who, at least to this point, are not protected by labor unions. During this COVID era, thousands of our neighbors have diligently reported to their essential jobs every day without the benefit of shop stewards overseeing adherence to health and safety regulations in their workplaces. Many of them, if not most, report for work where they face unreasonable demands and mandated overtime for wages that still aren’t livable. Those in healthcare roles, in particular, still report for work in facilities that are woefully understaffed and where many have lost access to their state-mandated paid time off for lunch and other respite breaks. They don’t dare speak up for fear of being walked out.
Essential workers throughout the North Country reported to work in March and April without masks, gloves or hand sanitizer being made available to them by their employers. Food and commercial workers at fast food restaurants, grocery stores and big box union busters like Walmart continue to risk their own health to ensure that we all have access to what we have needed for the past six months. A lucky few at each of these establishments have been selected to enforce face covering and social distancing policies. Many continue to be harassed and tormented by unreasonable customers without receiving adequate support or safeguarding by their managers.
Thousands of single mothers and fathers in essential roles have lost their access to childcare, affordable healthcare and dental care for their children. Thousands of others never had that access in the first place. Our Farm Workers still don’t have the guarantee of overtime pay until after working fifty hours per week…in this summers’ heat. These are our neighbors and as our esteemed Brother, John Lewis,
might have said; Their Trouble is Our Trouble.
For their selfless contributions to improving our lives during this crisis, we all have a responsibility to help our essential workers, regardless of their union status, improve their wages and working conditions in the months ahead.
Organized labor stands behind the promise of research, in that our nations’ scientists may develop a reliable vaccine for COVID-19 in the coming months. If they are successful, then we hope to be reunited in Massena in 2021. Until then, keep your families safe, remain patient, tip a little extra and if you see an essential worker in need, lend a hand.
But above all else, stay strong…Union Strong!
Ron McDougall, Ernie LaBaff, Jason Clark,
President; Jefferson, Lewis and St. Central Trades and Labor Council
Ernie LaBaff, President Emeritus, Aluminum Brick and Glass Workers International Union
Jason Clark, Recording Secretary Jefferson, Lewis and St. Central Trades and Labor Council