Opinion

Labor Day: Standing together for economic justice

This Labor Day, more than ever, working people are reminding communities that we are your neighbors, and that our unions are keeping the middle class intact and strong.

Whether we are your local teachers, police officers, firefighters, or state or county public workers, we continue to work together to provide a quality education for our students, safe neighborhoods for our families, and well-run communities for all of us. Today is a day to take pride in meaningful work, and to give back to my community. Across California, you will see working people celebrating the dignity of work by holding Labor Day parades, solidarity rallies, or protests against unrelenting Wall Street greed.

 I’m proud to be an educator in this state where we are leading the national charge against toxic testing that does nothing for the future of our students but put unnecessary pressures on them, and also limits our ability to teach beyond a test.

Here in Sacramento, I will start the day volunteering on an early shift at the Loaves and Fishes center on North C Street, feeding the hungry and homeless free meals. Then I will do what many working people will do today across the state – go to the regional AFL-CIO union picnic (ours is at William Land Park) to remind myself that this country was built by working people standing, celebrating and believing together.

Labor Day is not about slogans from the past. It’s about seeing the future of California’s communities as families of workers, union and non-union, who have deep roots, common goals, and who love the cities we build, educate and protect.

I’m proud to be an educator in this state where we are leading the national charge against toxic testing that does nothing for the future of our students but put unnecessary pressures on them, and also limits our ability to teach beyond a test. I’m proud to be an educator in this state where all students, regardless of race or financial status, will have an equal shot at a quality education. And most of all, I’m proud to say that together, the work we are doing in our schools will lead us to a stronger and more prosperous California.

I am a fourth-generation California public worker, and proud of it. My great-grandmother taught school in San Francisco; my grandmother was a social worker for Kern County; my mother was an educator in Bakersfield, where I was born, and in Sacramento.

And after 14 years working here as an educator and psychologist in the Sacramento City Unified School District, I am proud of how my union, the Sacramento City Teachers Association (SCTA), is giving back to our community, just as so many union members pay it forward every day.

Sacramento educators’ Parent/Teacher Home Visit Project began about 16 years ago and is now a model for a program that’s spread to numerous California school districts and 15 states. It’s a collaboration of SCTA, the school district, and Sacramento Area Congregations Together.

In this program, hundreds of teachers have volunteered over the years to visit thousands of students in their homes to build trust, cultural awareness and relationships that always pay off in the classroom. We visit with parents, knowing that parents are a child’s first teacher.

And just last year, the SCTA awarded $17,000 in college and technical school scholarships to high school students. Just as other affiliates of the California Teachers Association across California are awarding scores of similar scholarships.

We also fight for our communities. Just last week, my fellow educators in Monterey County held a protest rally in Salinas against the overuse of pesticides on farms near public schools. They publicized a new state report saying tons of pesticides sprayed on crops in Salinas, in Sacramento, and across the Central Valley, pose real health risks to students and communities. And that’s just one example of what we stand for, and against.

This Labor Day, join me in standing with working families, because we are standing with you to fight for economic justice.

Although there are corporate special interests actively trying to take away our rights, silence our voices and do away with our retirement benefits to line their pockets, we will continue to stand together for the sake of us all. We aren’t grabbing for a larger slice of the pie. We’re trying to make the pie larger for everyone. And we must remain united, especially at the polls this November, to stop CEOs from taking the whole pie and leaving so many workers in so many jobs to fight over the crumbs.

Ed’s Note: Nikki Milevsky is president of the Sacramento City Teachers Association.        


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