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Unions at the front lines in fight against income inequality

Andy Madtes
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Hardworking Floridians put in the time every day to take care of our families. We work to put food on the table, to put ourselves through school, to pay for the piano lessons and the baseball league. Our hard work allows our economy to thrive and our work is what makes America great.

On Labor Day, we recognize and honor the achievements of America’s workers. Many of us spend the weekend with family and friends at a barbecue, the beach or one last road trip quick vacation. And it is the time of year when the serious discussion of the issues that will impact this November’s elections start to take place.

Income inequality is one such issue. Drive around south Florida and progress abounds. The signs are everywhere. Construction is booming, hotels and restaurants are packed and our rich, cultural vitality is on full display.

It’s a great picture. But it’s only a picture, and a misleading one.

The prosperity is undeniable. The problem is that those who created this picture do not prosper. The images and the energy of our region have lulled us into slowly accepting what is steadfastly referred to as a “new normal.” While profits flow ceaselessly to the 1 percent, workers give their time and sweat in exchange for a great view from afar and a demeaning wage up close. It is a brutal bargain.

This “new normal,” has become a dangerous meme. With that comes a broad, casual acceptance of organized labor’s diminished purpose. Labor Day seems like an appropriate moment to set the record straight on that.

In addition to achieving historic, tangible gains such as partial paid parental leave for Miami-Dade employees, labor is continually and reliably beating back threats to workplace conditions and living standards. Our fight for a fair and humane wage is for all workers, union and non-union alike. When the honor of any individual’s hard work is threatened, we are all threatened. This is the way it has alwaysbeen. This is the way it will always be. This is our bargain.

As the battle for $15 dollar minimum wage, equality at the workplace and fair access to Medicare and Medicaid rage on, unions will be at the forefront. As summer’s last weekend comes to a close, glance up from the grill for a moment. Know that when we fight for what is right we will eventually prevail because it is our families, our communities and our careers that drive us every day.

Andy Madtes is the executive director of the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees for Florida and president of the South Florida AFL-CIO.