Why is California called the Golden State? It’s not simply a reference to those famous gold nuggets found on John Sutter’s mill in 1848. It isn’t just the golden hills of the Napa Valley in the summertime or the golden pop-pies which grow up and down the state in the springtime. It’s more than our incredible golden sunsets.
More than anything else, California is golden because of its promise of a better life. For hundreds of years, this land drew immigrants from all parts of the world to seek their fortune or simply release from the political, spiritual and emotional chains of their homelands.
Among these pioneers of promise were the working men and women who built California into the fifth largest economy of the world, now surpassing the United Kingdom, France and India.
From agriculture to medical research, from solar panels to space probes, from movies to music, California continues to offer its golden promise to those who are willing to work hard, study and make their dreams become real.
And through it all, we have Unions to show the way and share the burdens of working families struggling to reach for the promise. Our Union, UFCW 8-Golden State, is one of the biggest and the best, serving some 35,000 members who work in grocery and drug stores, food-processing plants, distilleries, health care facilities and offices from the Oregon border in the north to Kern County in the south.
These days, working people in our Golden State are living in a complicated, contradictory and challenging environment. Even as unprecedented numbers of people are becoming fabulously wealthy, more are struggling to pay the rent and put food on the table. Many of our cities are dealing with housing emergencies, overwhelmed with tens of thousands of desperate folks forced to live in tents, cars and recreational vehicles.
California has become a victim of its own success, a land where growing populations and flourishing industries are conspiring to make life unaffordable for those who aren’t managing to surf the wave of prosperity.
Lately, we have encountered additional challenges posed by horrendous wildfires, earthquakes, droughts and rising sea levels caused by climate change.
The good news is we have an enlightened state government willing to work with a strong Labor Movement toward creating a better economy for all.
Californians long ago abandoned the false notion of people succeeding best when they act alone. We have learned through experience how many people working together can move everyone forward.
Unions are all about working people standing together so we can confront our challenges with a strength which would be impossible to attain while acting alone.
When disasters strike, we come together to help our sisters and brothers. And when an employer makes unreason-able demands, we come together to affirm our rights to work with the dignity and respect we deserve.
This is the Union way and it is the California way.
As we honor working people on Labor Day, let us all remember the power of Solidarity in claiming the promise of our Golden State.