While many Americans look at Labor Day as the last weekend of summer and another opportunity to sit back and enjoy a barbeque with friends and family—the holiday was created to celebrate the accomplishments of hard-working men and women.
Labor Day is about celebrating the sacrifices working people have made to the shared prosperity of this country. It’s about valuing people, regardless of where they were born, for their work and the contributions they make to the economic well-being of our great country.
This Labor Day, we must challenge the political status quo that has left too many hard-working men and women to struggle alone in the shadows.
Nowhere has the failure of the status quo been more evident than in the struggle fix our country’s broken immigration system. There are over 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country, over 8 million of whom are active in the workforce. We’re talking about workers, parents, community leaders, friends and neighbors whose hard work and daily contributions to our economy merit full participation in our society.
While an overwhelming majority of Americans support comprehensive immigration reform, our national dialogue continues to be hijacked by endless fear-mongering and the antics of presidential campaigns jockeying for 2016.
Trump’s eccentric soundbites have not only dominated the conversation, they have further divided and obfuscated the serious debate over our country’s immigration crisis. Along with Trump’s unrealistic campaign promise to build a wall along our 2,000-mile long southern border, his calls for overturning the 14th Amendment and constitutional right of birthright citizenship are radical and dangerous.
Immigration reform will clearly be a key issue as we head into the 2016 presidential elections. Both parties have a responsibility to engage in a substantive debate about how we can actually fix a broken immigration system that penalizes workers and families. Too much is at stake to let this important issue be driven by extreme proposals and divisive rhetoric.
All politicians, those in office and those running for office, need to understand that the inaction that has pervaded our political system is unacceptable. Inaction is not an option for millions of hard-working men and women who aspire to be Americans.
Above all, we as a country cannot afford to continue down a path that enables and permits employers to exploit all workers by cutting wages, lowering benefits, and punishing those who dare to speak out for a better life.
We would hope that every candidate acknowledges the fact that if you live and work hard in America, if you’re contributing to the prosperity of this nation, you should have the opportunity to become an American.
This Labor Day, let’s honor and respect the work of all hard-working people.
For the sake of a better America we all must believe in, let’s put divisive partisan politics aside and challenge our 2016 candidates to do what is right for the country, and not themselves.
Perrone is the president of the 1.3 million member United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. López is executive vice president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.