LeRoy Candler addresses the crowd. He is a transportation engineer for Caltrans and a member of SEIU Local 1000.

Labor Day Rally Highlights Workers’ Rights

By Community Alliance Staff

A noontime Labor Day rally and picnic energized a crowd of workers from a variety of industries, including county, hospital and long-term care, as well as families and community leaders. The family-friendly rally, organized by SEIU 1000, SEIU 2015, SEIU 521 and Mi Familia Vota, supported workers, celebrated the vital contributions they make to life in the Central Valley and highlighted the importance of union jobs in America.

A voter registration booth was among several resources offered to attendees during the event at Courthouse Park in Fresno.

“Labor Day is more than a celebration of the great things unions have achieved for all of us, but how we continue to work towards creating the conditions that allow everyone to work and live with dignity and respect today and tomorrow,” said Martha Valladares, a long-term care provider and member of SEIU 2015.

California is seen as the leading-edge state for policies that support the diverse working families who make up our communities. According to a recent study by the UC Berkeley Labor Center, unions help improve the wages and benefits of all workers in California—both union and nonunion—as well as help address racial and gender inequality. On average, California’s union women earn 26% more than nonunion women. Similarly, Black workers earn 19% more and Latino/a workers earn 40% more on average under a union contract.

Still, much remains to be done as not all workers enjoy these benefits. One such case is that of family child care providers who are actively fighting for the right to unionize and collectively bargain. They also took part in the Labor Day celebration.

“We as family child care providers are fighting to improve our lives,” said Marcella Graves. “We know that together, with community support our strength in action can win us collective bargaining rights and a seat at the table.”

Family child care providers are not protected by basic benefits that workers in other industries enjoy, such as a minimum wage and workplace safety rules. They are also not entitled to any health benefits and do not have access to workplace retirement programs. Graves spoke of the plight faced by those who share her occupation.

“Too often, family child care providers find ourselves earning poverty wages and being unable to support our own families,” Graves said. “We are proud to stand with our union brothers and sisters today on Labor Day as we continue our fight to win.”

Elected officials and candidates who attended the rally included Selma Mayor Jim Avalos, Tulare Supervisor Eddie Valero, Congressional District 22 candidate Andrew Janz and Assembly Member Anna Caballero, also a candidate for State Senate District 12.

Gwyn Harshaw, SEIU 521 local president, closed the ceremony with a message to the community in light of the upcoming midterm elections.

“Working people in our area from all walks of life are sticking together to fight for our future, just like we won better wages, safer workplaces and civil rights in our past,” Harshaw said. “By joining together, we can elect leaders who work for all of us, not just the wealthy few. We thank our elected officials and candidates who stand with us here today, but it is up to us to hold these individuals accountable.”

  • The Community Alliance is a monthly newspaper that has been published in Fresno, California, since 1996. The purpose of the newspaper is to help build a progressive movement for social and economic justice.

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