Julie Lind

Julie Lind 

In the last 525,600 minutes, or the span of time between Labor Day 2020 and Labor Day 2021, our world is sometimes unrecognizable and sadly unchanged in many ways to before COVID-19. We saw racial and societal inequities highlighted and exacerbated by the pandemic, and witnessed our communities respond in surprising and sometimes inspirational ways.

As the executive secretary-treasurer of the San Mateo Labor Council, my role has been to lead and work side by side with incredible groups of people, both union and nonunion, to address the unique and severe challenges faced by front-line workers and others affected by COVID-19.

Since Labor Day 2020, the work of the labor movement at national, state and local levels helped elect leaders from President Biden and Vice President Harris on down, and some of the most progressive policies in our county are being spearheaded by some exciting new faces. We witnessed our community partners and core service agencies stepping up like never before, coordinating a pandemic response that pivoted on what often felt like a moment’s notice. They are still doing so, 18 months into a public health crisis that has no firm end in sight.

At the labor council, we worked with neighboring councils to distribute more than $500,000 in hardship funds to communities of displaced workers who otherwise would have received no financial assistance. We have distributed food in partnership with Second Harvest Food Bank since April 2020 providing more than a million pounds of food to an average of 800 families each time. We have coordinated numerous rapid response workshops to help members who lost their jobs as a result of COVID, and we have continuously lobbied our various legislative bodies for a variety of manifestations of pandemic relief.

We facilitated vaccine distribution to front-line workers, attained emergency paid sick leave for workers affected by COVID-19, were instrumental in the discussions around vaccine access and equity, provided strike support, successfully won hazard pay for grocery and pharmacy workers in various jurisdictions, worked with state and local bodies on how to safely return to work in various types of professional situations, have been key partners in the county’s recovery initiative and saw two more of our cities choose to raise the minimum wage on a timeline faster than that of the state. We are hopeful Foster City will be the third.

As we rebuild from the pandemic, we must identify the jobs available in our region, both short and long term. We need to figure out where and in what industries people are both unemployed and underemployed, and what is necessary for them to transition into full-time, high-road employment with quality wages, benefits and working conditions. Our workforce suffers from an opportunities gap rather than a skills gap and paths into the middle class should be expanded. One job should be enough.

For individuals displaced in sectors slow to return, we must help the transition into new employment and remove barriers. The populations in need of the greatest assistance often struggle to attain adequate technology, are unable to access higher education opportunities due to cost, have a hard time finding quality, affordable child care, and are regularly faced with housing and food insecurity due to the region’s astronomical cost of living. We must all work together to address these issues holistically. The pandemic highlighted gross inequities that have existed for far too long and we must do better.

Labor Day was established as a national holiday more than 100 years ago to celebrate the social and economic achievements of American workers.

This last year has been one of the most difficult for workers we’ve ever seen. Despite myriad challenges, we persevered. Essential workers on the front lines were our communities’ lifeline. Our members literally saved countless lives and kept us all afloat as the perfect storm of COVID and a recession ravaged our communities. 

We in your local labor movement, including teachers, nurses and firefighters; farmers and service workers; janitors, child care providers and construction workers; letter carriers, delivery drivers and sanitation workers; airline workers from the curbside to the cockpit; the people doing the day-to-day work of our municipalities; and so many more, will continue the fight for workers everywhere. And we won’t stop there.

This Labor Day we recommit to justice. Economic justice. Social justice. Racial justice. Gender equality. Justice for all, no matter what they look like, where they live, what they do, how they identify or who they love. Nationally we’re going to pass the federal PRO Act so that every worker has a fair shot at joining a union. We’ll pass the Voting Rights Act to ensure all people have the right to make their voices heard in elections. We’ll create millions of jobs with new investments in infrastructure. The future is bright when we stand together to fight for what is right. After all, it’s what we love to do. 

Julie Lind is the executive secretary-treasurer of the San Mateo Labor Council.

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(6) comments

Tommy Tee

Great letter. Union Strong!

Terence Y

Thank you for your letter, Ms. Lind. However, I can’t help but notice you’ve forsaken a profession that is probably just as, if not more important than the professions you’ve listed – law enforcement. And in your list of justices, you’ve ignored the most important one – criminal justice. Let’s not forget law enforcement is the group that attempts to ensure all your other labor movement participants can safely do their job, even though Newsom and many other local governments have so graciously allowed tens of thousands of criminals to be released back into the CA wild, for whatever reason. And cities are continuing to attempt to defund police forces, to the detriment of the entire populace, not just your labor movement participants. If you really want people to stand together, then let’s all stand together. Don’t marginalize, or in this case, ignore, a fellow union profession, else your message is lost and your plea is dishonest.

Ray Fowler

Hi, Terence

Yes, I noticed the same omission. Maybe Julie includes police officers with "the people doing the day-to-day work of our municipalities... " but I'm guessing that's not the case.

You have to tip your hat to the charitable work the Labor Council is doing in our county. However, the Council is better known for mobilizing members in support of the Council's agenda... an agenda steeped in leftist progressive ideology. The Council's ideology is probably a key reason why they don't get a high level of participation from local police unions.

You will see police union leadership in major cities arm wrestling in the press with City Hall, the DA, and anti-police factions largely over matters that directly affect police officers. In our county, smaller police unions are focused on the same things that are important to Julie's members... compensation, working conditions, etc. but they are also public safety advocates. Local police union leadership will let City Hall know when the streets are less safe and what the City can do to make residents safer.

I would like to see the Labor Council more focused on promoting fair hiring practices and protecting its members from discrimination in the workplace and less on politicking.

Terence Y

Good points, Ray. Now imagine the charitable work public sector unions in CA could do if instead of spending $75 million (this is in 2018) on political contributions, they spent those $millions on charitable aid and to combat communities facing hardships. Maybe labor would then attract more participants.

Ray Fowler

Re: teachers unions and substitutes... a sub cannot work in the same classroom more than 29 consecutive days. Now ostensibly the reason to limit long term sub assignments is to avoid the extra costs that might be incurred by providing a long term sub with benefits. However, if only fully certified teachers are allowed to sub more than 29 days in a single classroom... who makes out on that deal? Hmmm... maybe union teachers? Teacher unions also negotiate better compensation rates for their former members when those members retire and start subbing to pick up some extra cash. Who negotiates for the other subs? Cue the sound of a chorus of crickets.

I jumped over to an article in this weekend's edition on the substitute shortage in California and posted a comment. If you're interested... https://www.smdailyjournal.com/news/state/substitute-shortage-is-becoming-worrisome-in-california/article_a16dc3fc-0d30-11ec-8389-ebb4be4b5991.html

Dirk van Ulden

Hello Julie - perhaps you need to consider the downside of organized labor as well. The teacher unions have destroyed our public education system and unions are now calling the shots in Sacramento. Is that power part of a union's basic purpose? Union membership has taken a hit for obvious reasons.

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