By Sheri Williams
The Sacramento Central Labor Council held its 19th Annual Salute to Labor Awards in September, drawing hundreds of union members and leaders from across the region to celebrate the year’s accomplishments and ready for the upcoming election.
“We are right in the middle of an election year, and they say this is the most important one of our lifetime,” said Labor Council executive director Fabrizio Sasso, echoing a theme from other speakers. “Our country is in a crisis and it is up to the Labor Movement to save it.”
The evening honored Dick Mayberry, retired firefighter and district vice president IAFF Local 522, with the Legacy Award for his decades of service to his union, the Labor Council and the Labor Movement.
“We are all brothers and sisters in the family of Labor,” Mayberry said earlier. “It makes no difference as to what work we do or what union we belong to, we all share common values and suffer common hardships.”
The evening also honored organizer Fred Ross, Jr. and Labor icon Dolores Huerta, and drew politicians including Congresswoman Doris Matsui, candidate for state Superintendent of Public Education Tony Thurmond, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and others.
During her remarks, Matsui stressed that the upcoming election will reverberate for generations.
“With Labor you always know that you are family, through good times and bad,” Matsui said. “We are all together here and we understand that as a family we stay together, we work together and it is more important than ever this year. …This is the most important election of our lifetime. It is because before our children and our grandchildren is everything we believe in as Americans. It is everything we believe in as far as our values. A lot of those institutions that we believe in are being undermined, and we are looking ahead to wonder what is going to be there for our children and our grandchildren. It is a time when we all need to stand together. We have to vote, but we’ve got to do more than that. We’ve got to make sure that our neighbors, our friends, our families vote.”
Steinberg spoke about the need to create inclusivity and equity in Sacramento, while fighting on the national level. The upcoming ballot includes Measure U, which will fund positions in fire, police, parks and libraries, and also provide money for economic projects in underserved areas.
“As we fight to win elections as we fight to take back the Congress … let us never forget the obligation that we have here in this community… to model inclusive economic development, a city that leaves no one behind,” said Steinberg.
Tony Thurmond, who has been endorsed by Labor, focused his remarks on the value of education, and the need to protect teachers and public schools.
“I love the theme of rebuilding because that’s exactly what we need, and education is so vital to allowing that rebuilding to happen,” said Thurmond.
Yvonne Walker, President of the Sacraento Central Labor Council, addressed the recent Janus Supreme Court decision in her opening remarks. That case allowed free riders in unions, impairing their ability to advocate for working people. Walker stressed it would not be the end of unions, as some forces who oppose working people had hoped.
“As a movement, we’ve had crises in the past. … We knew that Janus was coming and we knew that it was not going to be favorable to us. But that’s okay, we can handle it,” Walker said. “What they did not know, what they could not anticipate, was that that decision was only going to make us stronger. Court decisions don’t define working men and women. We are not only going to survive Janus, we are going to thrive under Janus.”
Attorney General Xavier Becerra quoted the Dylan Thomas poem, ‘Do not go gentle into that good night,’ encouraging the crowd to fight against the policies of the Trump administration.
“There is someone in Washington, D.C. who wants to snuff out the light in our hopes, in the aspirations of people who are the first in their family to go on to college, who are the son or daughter of immigrants, who are raised in a union home with a construction worker and a clerical worker. …. It is up to us to not go gently in that good night, and we have to rage, rage against the dying of the light. It is not about him, it is about us.”