Who We Are
(This article first appeared in the July-August 2018 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine)
By Human Relations Director Sue Carney
There is no doubt our country is divided, whether it is because of opposing political views and party allegiance, or because of differing opinions pertaining to copious social issues. With all that divides us, it is a good time to remind ourselves who we are, where we come from and what we stand for.
We Are Labor
Bound together, our fundamental purpose has always been to seek political, social and economic justice for the disadvantaged. We are not a fee-for-service organization or a group of self-serving individuals simply looking to make gains for ourselves. We seek fairness, equality, dignity and respect for all common people, including those beyond our workroom floors and borders.
Throughout history, we and our immigrant forefathers and mothers have been in fields, factories, kitchens and mines. We drive trucks, build infrastructures, teach, heal the sick, fix machines, clean toilets, fly planes, process mail and more. We’ve increased wages, gained benefits, improved safety; stood against child labor, and stood for civil rights, human rights, and women’s rights. We stand on picket lines, sign petitions and vote. We’ve been bloodied, beaten and killed. We are not just names on the membership list. We stand for humanity. We speak for those who cannot. We fight for the living. We are the ones who built this country; we are who keep it running and we are who makes America great.
Or Are We?
There are 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the United State who, like our relatives, came to find a better life; to provide for their families or to escape the atrocities of a war-torn country or an oppressive government. It seems we are watching in silence while they live in fear of being ripped from their families; returned to their country to a sentence of homelessness, poverty, starvation or death. Children stripped away from their parents. Dreamers banished from the only country they know – a country they have allegiance to and make contributions to. With the exception of a few within our ranks who are indigenous or naturalized citizens, the overwhelming majority of us are Americans simply by luck. We could just as easily been born elsewhere and be in their shoes had we not had the good fortune of our immigrant ancestors migrating here.
Absent a piece of paper, they, like our ancestors, are just like us. They are hardworking, decent people who have motivations consistent with the American dream. We benefit from their labor, their skills, their military service, additional tax revenue and increased money circulation.
So where is Labor? Aren’t these our people? Shouldn’t we be demanding an easier path to citizenship without deportation; without treating human beings like livestock? If we are Labor, why do some among us cry for deportation, arguing they are economic and social burdens who are violating the law?
It begs the question, is being legal always right? We don’t have to look back too far in history to answer, no. Slavery was legal. People of color were denied access to businesses; relegated to different restrooms and fountains. Women couldn’t vote. There were no laws preventing child labor, unsafe work practices, and discrimination. All were legal. None were right.
So can we say we are the same Labor of our predecessors or have we forgotten our roots and let our core principals fall to the wayside because we inherited a legacy from those who toiled without having to endure the struggle? Have we become a generation of unionists in name only – failing to rise up to speak for the disenfranchised because the plight of another is not our own, or worse has our standing manufactured elitism
causing us to vehemently speak against those less fortunate than ourselves?
Be who we are.