Editorial: Remarkable Labor Day

This Labor Day is one of the most remarkable we can recall. Like a wave building power and momentum, American unions, declared dead or irrelevant by the punditry, are on a roll that we haven’t seen for some time — empowered and enthused by the movement for change that is sweeping the country with the Obama campaign.

The sight of leaders of the AFL-CIO, Change to Win and the independent NEA clasping hands at last Sunday’s rally in Denver — “united in our determination to Turn Around America,” as John Sweeney put it, brought tears to the eyes of grizzled veterans of the struggles of American workers.

What a beautiful, and historic, sight it was — a demonstration of the fact that America’s labor movement is headed toward reunification, and toward even bigger unity.

And what a beautiful and historic sight it’s been to see the labor movement taking the lead in fighting racism, educating workers across the nation about the connection between race and class, in order to elect the nation’s first African American president and advance the cause of all workers, their families and communities.

“There’s no evil that’s inflicted more pain and more suffering than racism — and it’s something we in the labor movement have a special responsibility to challenge,” AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Rich Trumka told the Steelworkers convention last month.

“It’s our special responsibility because we know, better than anyone else, how racism is used to divide working people.”

And he continued: “We’ve seen how companies set worker against worker — how they throw whites a few extra crumbs off the table — and how it’s black and Latino workers who get the dirtiest, most dangerous jobs.

“But we’ve seen something else, too. “We’ve seen that when we cross that color line and stand together no one can keep us down.” Wow!

And it’s not just here and there in labor. Leaders and activists in a host of our nation’s mightiest unions are putting bold progressive politics and the key fight for black-white-brown unity front and center in a whole new way — the Steelworkers, AFSCME, SEIU, the Communications Workers, the two teachers unions, the building trades, the mine workers and more.

It’s the wave of the future. What a Labor Day!