ICYMI – Steve Lawton: On Labor Day, Much For Staten Islanders To Celebrate — And To Denounce
In Case You Missed It, Staten Island labor leader Steve Lawton – President of CWA Local 1102 – authored the following op-ed for Labor Day, celebrating a resurgent labor movement and strongly denouncing anti-worker Congresswoman Nicole Malliotakis.
On Labor Day, Much For Staten Islanders To Celebrate — And To Denounce
By Steve Lawton
For many, Labor Day marks the unofficial end of summer — a day for parties, going to the beach, and cookouts. For others, it’s a day for sales and back-to-school shopping. But for working people on Staten Island, it’s always meant so much more. This year is no exception as we reflect on all the important protections we’ve secured through the collective power of unions.
We’ve witnessed a historic resurgence of labor activism fueled by workers demanding union representation across traditionally nonunionized tech, media, service, and logistics industries.
Workers are simply fed up with working long hours in poor conditions for low pay, especially as America’s largest corporations report making tens of billions in record profits. Not to mention, the average gap between CEOs and US workers surged to 670-to-1; at Amazon, it’s 6,474 to 1.
Working people deserve better pay and to be treated with dignity, which is why we need unions, and America agrees.
Throughout the pandemic, it’s become increasingly clear to the public that workers are the backbone of our economy and deserve better pay and greater worker protections. Today, a record 71% of Americans approve of labor unions, a level not seen in nearly six decades.
I, for one, could not be prouder when this past Spring, workers at Amazon’s Staten Island facility known as JFK8 – in one of the most significant victories for organized labor in a generation – voted to form Amazon’s first-ever union in the US. What’s more, they did in spite of Amazon spending millions running every dirty trick in their union-busting playbook.
Not surprisingly, corporations have responded to the surge in labor activism by leaving no stone unturned in exploiting weaknesses in labor law, including the termination of pro-union workers, disciplining and surveilling others in their battles with employees seeking to unionize. They’ve also turned to their allies in Congress like Congresswoman Nicole Malliotakis to protect their interests and deny workers their rights.
Malliotakis voted against the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act – legislation popular with voters across the aisle – that would impose new penalties for corporations that violate workers’ rights. She’s voted time and again to protect massive tax cuts for the richest and most powerful corporations making record profits as they price gouge hardworking New Yorkers.
She was the only member of New York City’s congressional delegation to vote against the Inflation Reduction Act, landmark legislation that will lower the cost of living for working families while creating good jobs across the country – all paid for by ensuring the ultra-wealthy and big corporations pay their fair share.
It’s no surprise that Malliotakis has failed workers and cast her lot with greedy corporations determined to keep the economy rigged against the middle class. Throughout her political career, she’s repeatedly voted against raising the minimum wage, requiring employers to provide paid family leave, ensuring equal pay, and protecting LGBT New Yorkers from workplace discrimination.
Corporations and lawmakers like Malliotakis fail to understand that workers are more than just statistics. They’re our mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters, and neighbors. They’re also Congresswoman Malliotakis’s constituents. Staten Island, after all, is a union town; union members make up nearly a third of the borough’s workers.
We deserve representatives that fight to strengthen the principle of collective bargaining, not undermine it.
One hundred forty years ago, Labor Day was born and bred in New York City. Today we keep that tradition alive by celebrating the extraordinary sacrifices of workers who’ve kept our City and nation moving forward through these challenging times. Let us also take a moment to reflect on our Congressperson’s record when it comes to workers and their labor rights. Just as workers always have our backs, we must demand our leaders have theirs.
Steve Lawton of Staten Island is President of Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 1102