It’s Labor Day 2021, the unofficial end of summer. We find ourselves just 2 months away from the two-year anniversary of the first COVID-19 case arising overseas.
Almost two years into this global pandemic, so much has changed for us.
We organized and harnessed the power of our vote to elect a new president, and leveraged our collective strength to pass the American Rescue Plan and give our cities and counties much needed relief.
Now, we’re partnering with more than 60 community organizations to get out the vote and defeat the costly and misguided gubernatorial recall.
We’ve gone from lockdown mandates to ensuring that every member has access to vaccination if they choose to do so, and the right to adequate PPE.
Our frontline responders in hospitals and medical facilities jumped into action from Day 1, treating the severely ill around the clock. Many of our non-healthcare members jumped in to assist in the operation of mass COVID-19 testing sites.
All of this has not been easy. But through all the instability, our union has stayed rock solid – an important fact to remember this Labor Day, as millions of our fellow Americans still face job market volatility, housing insecurity, and healthcare uncertainty.
Essential workers are now recognized as heroes, and working from home is now normalized.
We’ve consistently prioritized workers’ safety and professional dignity so we can keep Southern California’s communities functioning smoothly, whether we’re living through the best or worst of times.
Our membership is diverse and encompasses a wide array of sectors that are critical to having a California economy that works for all.
Some of our members have not always been part of our SEIU 721 family, or are in the middle of a fight to finally win union rights. For the great majority, working under a union contract and reaping the benefits of the union difference is all they’ve ever known.
We work at the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority – connecting thousands of people surviving on the streets to proper housing and life-saving services.
We work in academia at Laguna College of Art and Design, the University of Southern California, at Occidental College, Otis College, or at Whittier College – enlightening the next generation of students and inspiring us all, even through Zoom video.
We handle custodial services at LAX or other key City of LA buildings, including the Port of LA.
We handle refuse services in the City of Riverside, and other communities.
We’re part of the health clinics workforce in LA County and Ventura County, which has played a critical role in providing health services for our historically marginalized communities, and populations during this pandemic.
Some of our gig workers, those fighting for union representation at Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, and other gig companies, are keeping the people moving and the deliveries going.
Our work may be familiar or obscure. Our employer may be large or small. Whatever our unique situation may be, our labor is important and that’s why our union is important, too. We, the members – WE ARE THE UNION.
We know that every single member of our union counts, that every one of us matters and that our labor merits respect and dignity. Yet it is still up to us to make sure – through the power of our union – that, as essential workers, we are never taken for granted again. We’ve sacrificed far too much throughout this pandemic to return to that kind of normal.
That’s why must continue harnessing the power of our 98,000 plus membership and fight back against the ultra right-wing interests that are financing the costly recall. For decades, these powerful forces have waged countless attacks public sector workers to do away with our union voices. We must ensure that everyone in our households, and our worksites, votes no on the recall.
At the same time, it’s up to us to continue leading as the labor movement always has – as a strong voice for our neighbors and our communities, and for racial, environmental, and economic justice.
As we enjoy our Labor Day weekend, let’s take some time to reflect on all we’ve endured and to appreciate how far we’ve come, especially as a union family. We’re well into our second year of this pandemic but our union is stronger than ever – as reflected in the landmark contracts we’ve recently won in Los Angeles County, Laguna College, Watts Healthcare and throughout Ventura County. There are more victories to come.
As always, when we fight, we win!
SEIU 721 President David Green