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On this Labor Day, let us pause in reflection and thanks.
Our nation — its prosperity, power, and promise — was built on the back of labor. Much of it was built by those who were enslaved, indentured, and considered expendable.
Progress in how we protect and compensate working women and men was hard fought at every turn. There was fierce resistance against even the idea of unions and organized labor. Once the movement slowly and with great difficulty began to take root, it yielded progress for working people, from the factories to the fields. And it elected political leaders dedicated to serving the people and not just the powerful and prosperous.
Doing away with sweatshops, stopping the worst exploitation of child labor, the 40-hour work week, paid vacations — the list of reforms fought for by unions is long, varied, and illustrious.
We have come a great distance, but the struggle for fairness, equitable pay, and better conditions in the workplace is not finished. Indeed, we have seen a resurgence of labor unions in recent years. The United States, in general, can be a good place for working people. But we can make it better still.
As we strive to do that, let us honor those who power our country with the sweat of their brows and the exertion of their bodies.
Those who toil to keep us safe, fed, and clothed.
Those whose work is in the glare of the public.
And those who labor selflessly in the shadows.
Those who administer to the vulnerable.
Those who teach, heal, and mend.
Those who imbue our society with new ideas, pursue justice, and reckon with reality.
Those whose occupations place them in danger.
Those who work in the home.
Those who are concerned with sharing the truth.
Those who entertain us, challenge us, and ask that we do better.
Those who build, maintain, and, when necessary, dismantle.
Those who welcome new life into the world and bring comfort at its end.
Life begins in labor, and we toil, in some form, to our final days.
We all deserve dignity and respect. We deserve to be protected from those who would take unfair — and sometimes illegal — advantage of our efforts to make a living. We should recognize that the physical burden of work is uneven and that those who want to work are not always offered it.
Honoring labor also means creating safety nets for those who are in danger of falling or have given of themselves and now deserve to rest.
Labor comes in many forms. And society depends on all of it. The diversity of our labor is one of our core strengths, like the diversity of our populace.
Happy Labor Day to all.
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