On a morning where most people had the day off, the common laborer was celebrated for his or her productivity during the other 364 days a year during a breakfast in Benicia.
The Napa Solano Central Labor Council paid tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and the well being of the country, especially locally at a Labor Day Breakfast — this time outside in person rather than a Zoom meeting.
Jon Riley, the executive director of the council, MC’d the event and gave this thoughts on a number of topics, including the Build Back Better Act and Voting ‘No’ on the upcoming recall election with California Governor Gavin Newsom.
“This is my favorite day,” Riley said. “I was first introduced to the labor movement in 1969 when the police and fire first went on strike, first national strike. So I remember walking with my mom and dad. I grew up in labor household and I know what a labor household affords your family. So this is my favorite holiday. Today our message is no on the recall as to support the Pro Act. We want to build back better. We want to have the right to be able to organize the basic right to organize which is the single most core issue of labor. And the Pro Act will allow folks to do that.”
Riley said he was also glad to have the event in person but outside.
“Anybody who knows me knows this is my gig and that Zoom calls just don’t cut it,” Riley said, with a laugh. “And so our spring salute we were able to meet in person. This was our first time in 18 months we were able to meet in person. It’s wonderful. You can feel the sense of camaraderie.”
Speakers at the event included congressman Mike Thompson, D. St. Helena, Rep. John Garamendi, D-Solano, Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa,, as well as assembly members Tim Grayson and Cecilia Aguiar-Curry.
“I want to thank the laborers and the great work they do. It’s those leaders and leaders before them that are responsible for where we are today,” Thompson said. “We all stand on the shoulders of giants. All the worker protections we enjoy it’s because people broke their pick to make sure that happens. And there is good news. I don’t know if you saw the reports this morning but there are more workers represented by union laborer than anytime during the last five years.”
Thompson also discussed the recall election.
“On Sept. 14, vote No,” Thompson said. “It’s that simple. It’s like someone said, ‘you might not be 100 percent with the guy there now but believe me you’ll be zero percent with the guy that’s there if we don’t prevail in this recall.’ It will be an unmitigated disaster…it’s important to send a loud clear message that we’re not going to allow the recall to be used as a weapon.”
Dodd agreed with Thompson.
“I am all in with Gavin. We got to vote no,” Dodd said. “This is just a crazy Republican recall. We heard the message points. But we need to get our friends and neighbors out to vote. When people don’t vote, other things happen, tom-foolery happens. So let’s make sure to get everyone out. He (Newsom) is doing a hell of a job. I work with him all the time. Very proud of what he’s able to do. But the mantra out there is like he’s responsible for the fires, he’s responsible for COVID, he’s responsible for the electrical grid. All these things started way down the line before Newsom was our governor.”
Thompson also spoke at length about what he hopes the future will look like concerning laborers.
“We’re going to pass a surface transportation bill, the infrastructure bill that is going to create a lot of jobs, a trillion dollars in spending, $500 million in new spending,” Thompson said. “Great things for roads, bridges and highways and the electrical grid. There’s some good things in this. Water protection. It’s going to be very important and it’s equally important we pass along with it the Build Back Better Act.”
Aguiar-Curry used her time speaking in front of the large crowd to urge everyone to get vaccinated.
“We’ve made it so difficult for our heallth care workers, our essential workers because we can’t get people to get vaccinated,” Aguiar-Curry. “I have a friend, that is in ICU as I speak and baby sat this kid, but he was stubborn! And he’s probably going to lose his life because he was stubborn! It is heart wrenching!”
Riley also discussed the future of laborers, especially during and post COVID.
“Well I think certainly the changes to labor have devastated the impacts of COVID on our members. But I think what it did is shine a spotlight on the need for working men and women. I think what you’re seeing is people to see workers to come back to the workforce, but they need to pay them a respectable wage. I think that’s one of the changes we’re going to see coming out of COVID is the respect for the workforce and the service industry and the health care industry and other industries that don’t get the respect and pay they deserve.”
Grayson also spoke briefly and thanked all laborers for what they have done.
“Corporate greed and undermining your unionized collective voice, that’s not going away,” Grayson said. “That means we can’t get weary in our fight, which is a good fight. It’s a fight for the hardworking women and men up and down the state that need their voices to be heard for a safe workplace and retiring with dignity. So thank you for who you are and for all you do.”
Senator Dodd singled out health care workers for their resilience.
“Just think about what they’ve been through the last 18 months,” Dodd said. “The operating engineers cleaning up after all our fires. It just goes on and on and on the great support that our communities receive from you so I really want to give you the shout out.”