For those of us engaged in the struggle for workers rights, Labor Day has always been a time to renew our pledge to fight for dignity, fair treatment and the right of all workers to demand and receive a fair share of the fruits of their labor. Let us not forget that when union members first conceived of the idea for Labor Day in the 19th century, workers were brutally exploited and it took not only collective action to win basic rights, but also the ballot. As the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the value of so many frontline workers, this Labor Day we face the coming election steeled with the lessons of the past and a resolve to elect leaders who will do better.

Over the past several decades, anti-labor politicians have made it more difficult for working people to bargain for better wages and working conditions while allowing the super wealthy and corporations to amass an eye-popping amount of wealth and power. Last year, top executives at U.S. companies made an average of 264 times what their employees earned, a disparity that is likely going to worsen. As millions of Americans struggle in the current economic crisis, billionaires saw their net worth increase by over a half a trillion dollars in recent months.

Sen. Susan Collins has played a major role in creating this staggering level of income inequality as she voted to allow billionaires to pay a lower tax rate than the working class. She also voted to confirm Supreme Court judges focused on weakening the power of unions as well as a pro-corporate National Labor Relations Board that has rapidly been dismantling worker protections. Most recently, these Collins-approved NLRB members decided to prevent workers from midterm bargaining over union proposals for paid sick leave, hazard pay and temporary workplace closures in response to the coronavirus pandemic. This decision will give corporations more power to put workers at risk without allowing the workers to have any say in the matter.

As President Donald Trump seeks to starve the U.S. Postal Service of funding to prevent people from safely voting by mail, it was Sen. Collins who sponsored the 2006 legislation that is primarily responsible for bankrupting this popular agency.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whom Collins also supported, flatly refuses to extend unemployment benefits or pass federal aid to support cash-strapped state and local governments. As a result, Maine is facing more devastating layoffs and service cuts while thousands of jobless Mainers struggle to feed their families and stay in their homes.

Nowhere was Sen. Collins’ anti-worker bias more obvious than her vote to confirm corporate attorney Eugene Scalia to be labor secretary — a man who actually represented Bath Iron Works in a 2007 lawsuit that the company won against the Machinists Union Local S6 over changes to their pension plan. During the recent strike at BIW when the shipbuilders needed her most, Collins certainly showed her true colors when she refused to stand with them.

There’s a good reason House Speaker Sara Gideon has won the endorsement of the Maine AFL-CIO as well as the Maine State Council of Machinists, who previously backed Sen. Collins. Sara has fought for collective bargaining rights for public employees and woods workers, helped provide health care coverage to 70,000 Mainers, defeated anti-union “right to work” bills, passed a law to protect workers from wage theft and supported a new law that will provide earned time off for 139,000 Maine workers.

So this Labor Day, when its time to head back inside after a day at the lake or an evening barbecue, let’s reflect on why we get a day off to recognize the decades that Maines working people and the labor movement have spent fighting to ensure we have safe, quality workplaces. Now, lets make sure we elect people for public office who will continue to build on that.


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