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Celebrating All of America's Workers

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Over 100 years ago, Americans began to celebrate Labor Day to honor our nation's working people and the prosperity they contribute to society. We also celebrate the hard-earned rights workers won for all Americans decades ago, including the right to organize at the workplace. Unfortunately, the many labor rights we take for granted today are at risk due to policies that make working people more vulnerable. Given the loss of millions of American jobs, those of us with work feel fortunate. But even if you have a job, workplace problems don't evaporate, and those of us who stand up for our rights are increasingly told that this most American of activities is no longer protected under the law.

Attacks on working people are nothing new, but in recent years they have increased and gotten more vitriolic. While immigrant workers, along with other marginalized communities, have experienced mistreatment like retaliation, wage theft, and discrimination for years, there is now a concerted effort to roll back the basic labor rights of all working families. The experience of so many immigrant workers is becoming our country's new "normal."

Consider the fight over the right to organize in Wisconsin and elsewhere. In 2011, working families fought back against government-led union busting and saw a disappointing loss. For immigrant workers, however, employers' use of government agencies to suppress labor rights is nothing new.

And like immigrants who face wage theft, all working families have seen their purchasing power diminish in the face of a decrease to the inflation-adjusted value of the minimum wage.

The reality is that attacks on working people -- immigrant and citizen alike -- do not happen in a vacuum. In 2011, we at the National Immigration Law Center challenged a slew of anti-immigrant laws that endorsed racial profiling and threatened to undermine immigrant families' constitutional rights. Is it any surprise that in the last two years, these same states -- South Carolina, Alabama, Indiana, Georgia, and Utah -- introduced or passed bills designed to bust unions? Bills that chip away at workers' rights and immigrants' rights are allowed to proliferate when state legislatures value the input of ALEC and big business more than the needs of working people. Not surprisingly, anti-worker and anti-immigrant proposals are funded and espoused by similar foes.

Despite these challenges, people around the country are organizing in support of policies that make a real, positive difference in the lives of all working people. In California, workers have teamed up with Amy Poehler to urge Governor Jerry Brown to sign the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, which would end domestic workers' exclusion from basic labor protections. At the federal level, some visionary law makers have stepped up and are supporting the POWER Act, legislation that would protect the right to organize and ensure all workers' the right to be free from retaliation. In the Gulf Cost, the Southern 32 is defending the bedrock civil and labor rights of immigrants, while workers from New York to Missouri are coming together to support a raise to the minimum wage in their states.

On this Labor Day, attacks on all working people remain strong. However, advocates for fairness for all workers have proven that they are up to the challenge. We all know that our nation is at its best when workers are truly valued. This Labor Day, let us remember the hard-won battles workers waged in previous generations, and renew our efforts to ensure that our country lives up to its most cherished principles of strength and justice for all those working in America.

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