Much of this issue of Voice of Action is dedicated to coverage of UFCW 8’s Stewards Convention on April 4 in Sacramento.
That date is significant because it coincided with the National Day of Action called by Labor Unions across the country to protest the current onslaught of legislative attacks against working people and their right to organize themselves.
The date also marked the anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., who was gunned down while he was in Memphis to support striking municipal sanitation workers.
As working Americans (and working people around the world in countries like Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen and Syria) stand together to fight for their rights, we remember the legacy of those who came before us in the Union Movement and the message of unity — of solidarity — they taught.
This message is at the core of everything we do at UFCW 8, and it is especially important in this critical year of negotiations with the super - market employers throughout California.
To share this message with our Stewards, we hung a banner in our Convention hall to tell the story of the 8 Chopsticks.
The legend of the 8 Chopsticks, which was shared with me by my father, is told in many cultures. The bundle of sticks tied together for strength was a symbol of the ancient Roman Republic. And the founders of the American
Republic adopted it as the symbol to represent our nation’s motto, E Pluribus Unum— “From Many Comes One.”
The bundle of sticks appears on the wall behind the podium of the Uni ted States House of Representatives. It’s also on the arm rests where the statue of Abraham Lincoln sits in the Lincoln Memorial.
I believe it was Lincoln who said “An enemy of labor is an enemy to America.”
Our Declaration of Independence, the proposition of creating “a more perfect Union,” led to the Constitution and the right for people to assem ble, or dare I say to organize; the right to free speech, or dare I say to protest and bargain; and the freedom of the press, or dare I say to handbill in opposition to tyrannical power.
These are the things that make this country strong and our Union strong. And they are inseparable.
From the moment 13 colonies banded together and began their journey to create “a more perfect Union,” our country has been all about people working together to solve problems and fight for their rights, all the while respecting the individual’s quest for personal fulfillment — the pursuit of happiness.
Unions exist so that individuals will be better able to earn a good living, support their families, educate themselves and their children, have some time and resources to pursue their hopes and dreams and, after a lifetime of hard work, retire with dignity.
The citizens of our nation are being subjected to a corporate-funded campaign designed to discredit Unions. But Unions are the essence of Americanism. Our country itself is a Union!
Just think of what Unions have achieved for the benefit of all Americans who work for a living. Unions are responsible for Social Security, the minimum wage, Medicare, fair employment and housing practices, occupational safety and health standards, family leave and more.
Vacations and weekends? Overtime pay? Americans can thank Unions for these things, too.
We have our Union to thank!
Americans who are Union members have even more reason to be thankful. When we become ill, we don’t have to worry about filing for bankruptcy or how we are going to pay for our treatment while we’re fighting for our health or even our lives. We have our Union to thank for that!
When we retire after a career of hard work, we can enjoy our families and our hobbies without worrying about keeping a roof over our heads. We have our Union to thank for that!
When we are treated unjustly on the job, we get our day in court in the way of a grievance and arbitration procedure. We have our Union to thank for that!
We have legally binding documents that require our employers to compensate us fairly and treat us with dignity and respect. We have our Union to thank for that!
These are the practices and institutions that build a civilized, compassionate society in which all people — not just the rich and influential, but all people — have dignity. All of these things exist because people banded together to form the Labor Movement for the common good, demand ing their fair share of the American Dream.
The task falls upon all of us to counter the distortions and lies that told about us. We must speak truth to the power of billionaires and wealthy corporations who seek to manipulate the system for their own benefit.
We need to share the fundamental American truth that Solidarity Works!
We need Unions — now more than ever!