From Charles Wowkanech, president of the New Jersey state AFL-CIO at North Jersey.com:
ON LABOR DAY, we recognize the hard-working men and women who keep our nation running. Yet we must not forget the millions of people who have lost their jobs due to our unprecedented economic conditions.
Regardless of employment status, we all share a common goal to raise a family and provide a better future for our children. It is this aspiration that has built our country’s middle class and has instilled a sense of purpose for generations of American families.
However, something seems to have changed, and the promise of a job and a middle-class life is becoming harder and harder to come by in this country.
After a lifetime of work, many people are still unable to retire, young people entering the workforce are competing for a fewer number of jobs, and the unemployed have become nearly invisible in our economy.
Political gridlock has exacerbated the problems we face by diminishing confidence in our economy and undermining the core American value of compromise. Despite a clear and present problem in this country — unemployment — Congress has yet to take the necessary steps to address the jobs crisis. Only when faced with an impending deadline, as in the case of the federal budget and debt ceiling, has Congress been able to act. Yet, only through job creation will we begin to spur economic growth and pay down the debt.
There is no one person or branch of government to blame for the economic problems we face. These problems affect us all, and we can all play a role in overcoming them. The question comes down to how we are going to move forward.
Labor Day brings focus to our similarities rather than our differences. We realize that the one thing that separates a nurse from a bus driver is a uniform because at the end of the day, we are all working towards a better quality of life and a brighter future for our children.
Labor Day transcends political affiliation, socioeconomic status, and geography. It is a day for all of us to recognize that we are in this fight together, and although we may lead independent lives, together, we work to strengthen our state and nation.
Police officers and firefighters keep our neighborhoods safe and save lives. A teacher challenges our kids and inspires students to reach their potential. Building trades workers construct the buildings we work in, the networks we use to communicate and the infrastructure that keeps our society functioning. Retail and supermarket workers, service and industrial employees, social workers, health care workers and transportation workers prove the value of their work every day.
Since deadlines appear to be the only way to get results these days, it seems appropriate for working families to propose a deadline of their own – not just to Congress but to all Americans. Beginning this Labor Day, let us resolve ourselves to take up the fight for jobs in earnest, working together to bring unemployment under control and to restore the many opportunities made possible in a working nation. No matter what side of the table we sit on, a majority of us still believe in the American Dream. All that remains is that we work together to safeguard this quintessential American value.