“A more Perfect Union” The Importance of Labor Day

Labor Day

By: Larry Fondation, Director of Community Engagement at Green Dot Public Schools

As we look forward to celebrating Labor Day, it is appropriate to reflect on the gains and benefits that organized labor has brought to workers and to our society as a whole. Labor has been a central and vital part of the quest for social justice in the United States and beyond.

The freedom from…

Protections from unsafe working conditions, prohibitions on arbitrary firings and dismissals, safeguards against wage theft – these are all reforms fought for and won by organized labor.

These are “negative freedoms” — freedoms from danger, arbitrary action, and intrusion. And these are important freedoms. We see the need to be free from harm in many places, venues, and headlines – from the streets of Ferguson, Missouri to our own United Parents’ campaign against illegal dumping in our neighborhoods. We see it, too, in our recent participation in a coalition fighting to end the practice of random metal-detection of students for weapons, without any reasonable suspicion.

Yet as important as these freedoms are, they must indeed be coupled with a broader sense of positive freedoms – the freedom “to.”

The freedom to…

We stood in solidarity with our allies in the labor movement to win a $15 minimum wage in Los Angeles, and now statewide. It’s why Green Dot began paying $15 per hour as of 2014. We believe in a living wage – a wage sufficient to meet not only the necessities of life, but also to allow a family quality time to spend together and to nurture their children. We believe in the “freedom to…”

By providing a solid education for our students, we are trying to give them the freedom to pursue their dreams – the freedom to hope, to expand their minds, the freedom to go to college and pursue a meaningful career.

United Parents

Pursuit of freedoms at Green Dot

At Green Dot Public Schools, we work with our community leaders to provide pathways to positive freedoms.

  • Through United Parents, we are giving whole families the opportunity to envision, and to work for, a safe and healthy community from which to launch those dreams.
  • Green Dot Votes seeks to give our 18 year old students and their parents alike, a space to register to vote, to actually vote, and to develop a public life– a place to participate in the decisions that affect us, a place that is necessary to the functioning of a healthy democracy.
  • AMU , the Asociación de Maestros Unidos — the union that represents the teachers and counselors at Green Dot Public Schools in California– continues to develop ways for teachers to participate in organizational decision-making while introducing the efficiencies necessary to run multiple campuses.
  • ACEA , the Ánimo Classified Employees Association, has become the voice for all classified school employees at Green Dot Public Schools. It is important to educate, empower, and organize our classified employees around issues that directly affect quality of life, such as employment and wages.

To quote President Barack Obama:

My fellow Americans, whatever you may believe, whether you prefer one party or no party, whether you supported my agenda or fought as hard as you could against it, our collective future depends on your willingness to uphold your duties as a citizen. To vote. To speak out. To stand up for others, especially the weak, especially the vulnerable, knowing that each of us is only here because somebody, somewhere, stood up for us. We need every American to stay active in our public life and not just during election time, so that our public life reflects the goodness and the decency that I see in the American people every single day.

Positive freedoms are not merely individual freedoms. They are collective freedoms – embodying the aspirations of a community. As we ponder the history and the meaning of Labor Day and rightly celebrate organized workers’ accomplishments, we must work to expand those to all in our nation, and to think and stand for the whole, seeing our country truly as “one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

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