Kudos to Jay Leno for ending his 22-year tenure on The Tonight Show with a staunchly pro-union statement.
In his tearful closing remarks on his final show Thursday night, Leno said:
"I'm also proud to say this is a union show, and I have never worked with a more professional group of people in my life. They get paid good money and they do a good job."
"And when the guys and women on this show would show me the new car they bought or the house up the street here in Burbank that one of the guys got, I felt I played a bigger role in their success as they played in mine. That was just a great feeling."
This is not the first time that Leno has shown his solidarity with the labor movement. In 2000, Leno was scheduled to appear at the Society of Human Resource Management's (SHRM) annual convention in Las Vegas when he learned that one of the most notorious union-busting law firms in the country -- Jackson, Lewis -- was getting paid big bucks to make two "How to Stay Union Free" presentations at the conference.
Leno courageously announced that he'd refuse to appear at the SHRM unless it booted Jackson, Lewis off its agenda. Rather than lose Leno, SHRM cancelled the conference's union-busting seminar. This was quite a coup considering that SHRM's chairman, Michael J. Lotito, is a partner at Jackson, Lewis.
At the time, Leno's union, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) noted that Leno had always been a "stand-up guy" on union issues.
Last night, when he didn't have to do so, he demonstrated which side he is on. Thanks, Jay!!
Peter Dreier teaches Politics and chairs the Urban & Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College. His most recent book is The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame (Nation Books).
Follow Peter Dreier on Twitter: www.twitter.com/peterdreier