By: Senate President Don Harmon
From Chicago to Cairo and everywhere in between, Illinois is the proverbial heart of the Labor movement. This state’s impact on labor compares to no other. Our past is replete with world famous names that any student of Labor history will know even today. Haymarket. Pullman. Mother Jones. Herrin. Cherry Mine.
Devastating instances of violence and hard fought victories for workers are woven throughout the tapestry of Illinois history. The sacrifices workers before us have made should never be forgotten because without them, we would not have the eight hour work day, worker’s compensation, safety regulations, or even Labor Day itself.
Organized Labor in Illinois has shaped the way our nation works, and that’s an undeniable fact.
Our future will no doubt be reshaped by Organized Labor’s role in meeting this historic moment. As we combat this global pandemic and fashion a recovery from it, I cannot help but be hopeful about the role I know working people will play. Already we’ve seen the impact our brothers and sisters have made keeping us fed, informed, healthy, and safe throughout these past six months. Their sacrifices do not go unnoticed.
This moment has laid bare the injustice of widespread inequality and the terrible effects it has had on those without access to suitable healthcare or the means to provide for their families due to economic shock. It has also sparked a renewed focus on the role systematic racism has played to keep many of our Black and Brown brothers and sisters from achieving the American Dream.
We cannot let this moment pass without enacting real change. Organized Labor in Illinois has shown that throughout history, the working men and women of this state have the power to make incredible progress. Let us use that same power to ensure that each and every American regardless of race or economic status is afforded the same opportunities, safety, and care.
This is not the time to back down.
With every challenge comes an opportunity to overcome it. If I know anything about the members of Illinois’s labor unions, I know they are ready to take up the challenge. Leading the way will be those who stepped up in this pandemic and persevered for all of us. Grocery store workers, truck drivers, auto mechanics, nurses, teachers, doctors, scientists, public service workers, janitors, construction trades, researchers, postal workers, and so many, many more.
Our communities and political leaders cannot sweep under the rug what this past year has wrought. With an election season upon us, we have the chance to elect leaders ready to fight for working families as hard as we fight for them every day.
Rest this Labor Day my friends. The fight before us will be tremendous, but our past is prologue when it comes to the biggest battles.