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September 2021

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Remembering Sacrifices this Labor Day

Happy Labor Day, brothers and sisters!

As we approach the end of summer and the start of the school year, we must stop and remember why Labor Day exists at all: It was set aside to honor you, the working person, and everyone who came before you who worked for a living and gave blood, sweat and tears to build the prosperity our two countries enjoy today.

Recognition didn't come easy, and often the dignity and respect working people deserve are still in short supply. In both the U.S. and Canada, belonging to a union in the early days of the labor movement could have landed you in jail or worse.

Today, we stand on the shoulders of those early union heroes who faced beatings, arrests and even death for standing up for the rights of the working classes, and Labor Day is a small way to remember everything they gave for us and the courage they showed in the face of incredible adversity.

Things like the five-day workweek, health and safety standards, paid time off and secure retirements only exist because of the sacrifices of those who paved the way for us. Please remember that as you celebrate this important day and give some thought to those labor pioneers and to those who still fight for fair working conditions and honest pay today. We owe them all so much.

We recently lost someone who stood up and fought for workers' rights. AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka was not just a friend; he was a tireless advocate for working people and dedicated leader of the labor movement in the U.S.

Brother Trumka grew up in a mining family in western Pennsylvania, not far from my childhood home in Ohio. No matter how far he rose or how many presidents courted his support, Rich never forgot where he came from. On the day he died, he was still a mineworker from Nemacolin, Pa., first — those people were who he fought for every day of his working life. I'll miss his leadership and his friendship.

And finally, this month marks the 20th anniversary of a day that changed so many lives around the world, but especially in the New York area.

In addition to countless family members, friends and loved ones, the IBEW lost 21 brothers from New York Locals 3 and 1212 during the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. As America and the world remembers the nearly 3,000 people brutally killed that day, let us keep the families and friends of those 21 in our hearts. We will never forget them.

Thank you for everything you do for working families, and enjoy a well-earned holiday.


Also: Stephenson: Saying Goodbye to a Labor Legend Read Stephenson's Column

Kenneth W. Cooper

Kenneth W. Cooper
International Secretary-Treasurer