Rick Bloomingdale

Op-ed columnist Rick Bloomingdale is president of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO.

This Labor Day, it’s about democracy.

This Labor Day, we are a few short weeks away from the most historically significant election for Pennsylvania’s working people. There will be no Labor Day parades, and end-of-summer barbecues will be smaller and socially distant. But this does not change the meaning of the day.

From a once-in-a-century public health crisis to a reckoning with systemic racism and police brutality, 2020 calls each of us to act and demand dignity for all.

Never has the importance of the union in American workplaces been more apparent. If anything, 2020 has been filled with reminders of the importance of unions and all workers’ voices.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the negligent response from the federal government have wreaked havoc on the American worker. Many of the hundreds of thousands of jobs lost initially in this pandemic will never return.

Many working parents face the extraordinary challenge of shepherding children through distance learning. Without alternative options, mothers are choosing to leave the workforce because of lack of child care, worsening the gender wage gap and depriving families of breadwinners.

Our U.S. Postal Service was attacked by those who would seemingly seize the opportunity to privatize public services for corporate profit — at the expense of our democracy.

Right-wing elected officials have failed to do their jobs. Their inaction has stunted our economic recovery as families face the decision whether to pay their bills or buy groceries. Unsafe workplaces and lack of access to health care have worsened the death toll of COVID-19.

We have seen employers intimidate their workers and retaliate against people who speak up for their job safety. We have seen employers deny workers hazard pay and sick leave. We have seen the burden of a public health crisis foisted onto the shoulders of the uninsured.

Meanwhile, Washington lawmakers have sat on their hands. We’ve waited for months as the U.S. House-passed HEROES Act sits untouched in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s lap. And our nation continues to suffer.

Do we want to see more of this? Is this what we want for the next four years or the next decade?

No. It’s not. We’re tired of seeing everyday people mistreated and denied dignity by a system designed to keep power in the hands of the powerful. Aren’t you?

We have an opportunity to reimagine the future of Pennsylvania and our country on Nov. 3. That’s why we cannot stress the importance of this upcoming election enough. In 2018, America’s voters elected more than 964 union members to public office. Now, we have the opportunity to elect even more.

Unions are democracy in the workplace. When working people come together to make their voices heard on the job, we assert our collective dignity. The union is you.

The only way we can move forward is together, using our voices at protests and the ballot box.

We are fortunate that the bipartisan Act 77 of 2019 granted Pennsylvanians some of the most accessible voting laws in the country, just in time for the most important election we’ve faced in our lifetimes. Will we rise as a movement to meet this moment of history?

We must. We must vote and commit to spreading the word. This is our democracy, our commonwealth. We are obligated to act.

Rick Bloomingdale is president of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO.