By Alicia Criado, Policy Associate, Economic Policy Project
We’re back for another round of NCLR’s video blog series. Today’s post coincides with May Day, or International Workers’ Day, which most Americans don’t realize originated in Chicago when workers fought for the eight-hour workday in 1886. Since then, May 1 has historically served as a day to celebrate and promote workers’ rights. Yet, recently, the need for investments to ensure the rights of and stronger protections for workers has been largely ignored.
Federal inaction on Capitol Hill is dangerous, and we have seen several consequences play out as a result. Today, thousands of individuals are feeling the sting of the automatic spending cuts Congress passed on March 1, which threaten important programs, such as job training, that are critical to the well-being of workers, their families, and our communities. At the same time, tragedies like the recent fertilizer plant explosion in Texas highlight the cost of leaving agencies like the Occupational Saftey and Health Administration, which is charged with enforcing federal laws that keep workers safe on the job, starved for resources. Meanwhile, the introduction of unfriendly family policies like the “Working Families Flexibility Act” (H.R. 1406) represent misguided attempts to modernize structural gaps in workplace law.
Perhaps the brightest spot on the horizon for workers this May Day is the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013” (S.744), which offers several promising provisions to protect the rights of U.S. and immigrant workers and reduce incentives for employers to hire undocumented workers.
Community members like Juan Sanchez, featured in the video above, are speaking out against the harmful March 1 cuts and their impact on workers with limited skills. Like many of our country’s youth who face high levels of unemployment, Juan understands that allowing the cuts to continue will shut the doors on our future workforce, thereby jeopardizing the strength of our economy. And Congress’ inability to improve worker health and safety standards only worsens the situation, especially for Latinos.
On this May Day, NCLR stands with immigrant groups, labor unions, and community-based organizations as they take to the streets in places like Las Vegas to ensure that all workers’ voices are heard. We are calling for federal policies that create living wage jobs, invest in our future, and protect the most vulnerable working families.