It’s been a momentous Summer on top of an extraordinarily challenging year that, much like the COVID-19 pandemic, is not over yet. For many of us, as SEIU 721 Members, it has been especially difficult. We make up much of the frontline workforce that has kept Southern California functioning during one of the most terrifying crises in a generation.
When they call us “heroes,” we know it is true because so many of us literally put our lives on the line when we go to our jobs each day – and some of us know colleagues who actually paid the ultimate price. Still we still come to work. Those of us doing our jobs remotely know that if our labor does not continue, the public safety net truly is at risk of coming apart. And all of us knew we cannot allow that to happen. So, from the start, we have done our duty. We still do.
Yet despite this new reality, we still feel instability – if only because we cannot ignore the headlines about unemployment rates and deficits. During unstable eras like the one we’re living in now, it’s tempting to succumb to uncertainty. But we, the frontline workforce, should feel strong – union strong. We’ve always known it but this pandemic proved to everyone just how vital frontline workers are to keeping society functioning at every level. People can still call 9-1-1 and count on emergency and healthcare services because of us. People can still count on their sanitation and water treatment services because of us. Endangered children and families at risk of poverty can still count on help because of us. Traffic still flows. Court is still in session. The lights are still on. Elections are still moving forward. And it’s all because of our labor.
So, this Labor Day weekend, take time to recognize and respect the work we’ve done. It has been extraordinary. We deserve to rest up this Labor Day weekend. And we need to, because there’s a big battle ahead of us this Fall. Too many elected officials in Washington, DC – including the current occupant of the White House – think they are going to get away with calling us “heroes” in the Spring only to reward us with pink slips in the Fall. They think we have forgotten that, even in the midst of a rough recession, we are still living in the wealthiest nation in the world – a fact our federal leaders underscored back in March when the richest of the rich got $5 trillion in “relief” courtesy of us, the U.S. taxpayers.
They think we have forgotten that the American people can live their lives, and pursue their dreams, because we provide the infrastructure that makes it all possible. They think we have forgotten that, without us, it all falls apart. But we have not forgotten. It is they who have forgotten – and on Election Day, we will remind them by voting in new leaders who actually respect our labor.
Linda Dent, SEIU 721 Vice President and Cheylynda Barnard, Executive Board Member for the Inland Empire Region