Local labor leaders mark holiday despite losing traditional events

OSWEGO — The first weekend in September brings the unofficial end of summer in central New York and around the nation but while the usual barbeques and parades might be muted this year, local labor leaders say it’s always a good opportunity to remember the importance of the union movement in the United States.

Labor Day, established by Congress in 1894, is a creation of the labor movement and dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers, according to history from the federal Department of Labor. The annual tribute to worker contributions celebrates the strength, prosperity and well being of our nation as we bid goodbye to warm days and see night beginning to fall earlier and earlier.

Syracuse’s Sam Roberts started as a member of the United Auto Workers before rising to become a union leader and state Assemblyman. Roberts served in a number of official government and labor capacities including state commissioner for the Office of Temporary Disability Assistance and told The Palladium-Times over the weekend that in spite of popular opinions, the labor movement has benefitted all Americans.

“There’s so many mixed emotions about unions and the labor union as a whole, but some people don’t know the history and the message,” Roberts said. “Social Security, the 40-hour work week, health care benefits — these are things that people take for granted, and this is our time to tell our story.”

While traditional parades and other Labor Day events have been put on hold due, Roberts and other CNY labor supporters said they would be observing the holiday in new ways.

“This year, we have learned to celebrate the Fourth of July without a parade. We honored our departed warriors on Memorial Day without a parade. This Labor Day, central New Yorkers will not be parading but we will be marching,” said CNY Area Labor Federation AFL-CIO President Ann Marie Taliercio.

Organized labor “struggles every day to keep marching forward,” Taliercio said, to “make a better and more just workplace for American workers.”

“These are difficult times with 30 million jobs lost but even more, more than 180,000 of our brothers and sisters have been lost to a pandemic through denial and disinformation,” she said. “Workers have borne the brunt of this pandemic as well as have been the ones who work to keep this country running despite the danger.”

Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay, R-Pulaski, said Labor Day was a time to “recognize and reflect on the enormous contributions American workers have made in shaping our country and changing the world.”

“This year, Labor Day takes on special meaning as we begin the process of healing from the COVID-19 pandemic. The men and women of New York’s dedicated workforce are central to our collective recovery and future well being. Their determination and perseverance throughout this crisis has helped us through trying times, and will unquestionably lead us into better days,” Barclay said. “For their immeasurable contributions, the state’s labor force deserves our respect and gratitude. As we mark the unofficial end of summer this holiday weekend, we should each take a moment to reflect on everything made possible by America’s workforce.”

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