Labor Day was officially established by Congress in 1894. I’ve been thinking about its relevancy in today’s world – how does the FOP and the SEIU and Wal-Mart and UPMC tie together? So here are my thoughts on how Labor itself can help me understand.
First, educate us. I’d love to attend a Labor 101 workshop/class if I knew I would learn how to navigate the complex issues surrounding labor today. This is Pittsburgh! This sort of thing should be happening on a regular basis. Invite the bloggers, the LGBTQ community, women organizers, etc. Don’t assume we know how to connect the dots. And don’t gloss over the story.
Second, connect with me via social media. Instagram! Pinterest boards with historical photos. Twitter and Facebook keeping me informed on current news, local and national. Coordination between the locals – maybe take a tip from the gay bowlers and use a shared account?
Third, let’s talk about poverty. If your way is the key to entering and maintaining the middle class, why do so many union members patronize poverty wage businesses? Why are you letting Rich Fitzgerald and Amanda Green (she works for you) get away with paying people with debit cards (foster parents for crying out loud)? I don’t understand. I know you do food drives, but what else? Tell me. Help me understand, for example, the interesting work with UPMC that’s organizing but not organizing. The “strong middle class” rhetoric isn’t resonating with me because it’s being spouted by people who send their kids to private schools, vacation twice a year and shop at Wal-Mart.
Fourth. Why not use the Labor Day Parade to collect back to school supplies for low income kids? Imagine. It would take a lot of work, but you get a group like Pittsburgh Cares involved. You distribute the supplies to the Pittsburgh Public Schools – to support the teachers spending on average $1k of their own money to help buy supplies. Boxes for collections and can for donations of cash. Why not tie the real meaning of the holiday with the modern understanding of the holiday. And help members of a public union do their job a little more easily?
Finally, give me hope. I”m a queer disabled American living in a state that doesn’t value or recognize my dignity as a resident or a citizen. I am disproportionately likely to be the poor person relying on public transit, using the public streets and schools and hospitals. I’m relying on your – especially the public unions – to support me, to keep me safe, to help me be part of my community. Whether that be courtesy when lowering the bus lift to donating time to repaing the LGBT Community Center, it sends a message to me. AndI need hope because I feel overwhelmed by the UPMC/Highmark battle, scared even. I need hope because my kids are definitely in public schools. I need hope because I am going to be in the care of a home health provider one day and hope their wage warrants the training to understand LGBTQ issues.
Give me education. Give me hope.