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Two union leaders speak on meaning of Labor Day

STEPHON JOHNSON Amsterdam News Staff | 8/30/2012, 4:50 p.m.

This coming weekend, most will celebrate Labor Day as the unofficial end of summer, but to many, the real meaning of Labor Day still resonates. Union members all over the city will gather in Manhattan for the 2012 Labor Day Parade and celebrate the contributions made by those who fought for workers' rights.

A couple of union leaders decided to speak to the AmNews on the meaning of Labor Day and how unions continue to honor it.

"Labor Day is an opportunity to remember what the labor movement in this country is about," said 32BJ Secretary-Treasurer Hector Figueroa. "It's not about just unions, but all working people--immigrants, low-wage workers, mid-career professionals downsized out of their jobs, the long-term unemployed who cannot find work. The labor movement is for middle-class and working people to get the fair shake they deserve and for our country to achieve the broadly shared prosperity it needs."

DC 37 Executive Director Lillian Roberts told the AmNews that Labor Day gives her unions and people like herself a break to think about why they continue to fight for what she feels is rightfully theirs.

"On Labor Day 2012, we pause to reflect on the many contributions and sacrifices made by the workers whose labor and dedication built and sustains our great city, our state and our country," said Roberts. "Public employees who are part of the diverse District Council 37 family make New York City happen through the public services they provide each and every day in communities, schools, public health facilities, offices, social service centers, libraries, parks, cultural institutions and throughout the city's vast infrastructure."

Roberts also wanted to remind people that Labor Day brings the American people closer to Election Day. She explained how going out to vote, particularly for President Barack Obama, can guarantee unions' standing in the country.

"Labor Day is a time to recognize [workers'] valuable contributions, and that of all workers, to our society and to rededicate ourselves to protecting and upholding hard-fought rights won by labor and its community partners, from adequate wages and pensions, affordable health care, civil rights and dignity on and off the job, to voting rights, which have come under attack," said Roberts. "In this crucial election year, union members must come together and vote for President Barack Obama as part of their broader struggle to prevail in difficult times, as labor has always done and will continue to do with the dawn of each new Labor Day."