Remarks of Mayor Martin J. Walsh Greater Boston Labor Council, Labor Day Breakfast
As prepared for delivery
| | More
For Immediate Release
September 01, 2014
Released By:
Mayor's Office
For More Information Contact:
Mayor's Press Office
617.635.4461

Thank you, Rich [Rogers]. Thank you, President Steve Tolman, for your leadership of the AFL-CIO. And thank you to all my sisters and brothers in the labor movement.

I could spend the next 10 minutes—or more— acknowledging people here today. And I’d be right to do it, because so many of you deserve recognition.

But I want to do something different. I know you’ll understand. I want to start by lifting up one of our families going through a tough time right now. Tommy Kelly and his family live in Dorchester. Tommy turned 5 last week, and he’s fighting cancer. You all know his dad, Ed, of the Professional Firefighters of Massachusetts. Eddie, his wife, Katie, their kids, Maggie and Tommy, are a strong family. And Tommy has an unbelievable fighting spirit. They are giving it all they’ve got; but could use our thoughts and prayers right now.

I know how much your support means to them. I was a Dorchester kid who had cancer. And I remember how--when it got tough--everyone pitched in to help. I learned early the meaning of community and what working people can accomplish together.

My father came from Ireland with next to nothing, and found work as a laborer. When he joined the union, we became part of a bigger community. And that community, the labor 

Thank you, Rich [Rogers]. Thank you, President Steve Tolman, for your leadership of the AFL-CIO. And thank you to all my sisters and brothers in the labor movement.

I could spend the next 10 minutes—or more— acknowledging people here today. And I’d be right to do it, because so many of you deserve recognition.

But I want to do something different. I know you’ll understand. I want to start by lifting up one of our families going through a tough time right now. Tommy Kelly and his family live in Dorchester. Tommy turned 5 last week, and he’s fighting cancer. You all know his dad, Ed, of the Professional Firefighters of Massachusetts. Eddie, his wife, Katie, their kids, Maggie and Tommy, are a strong family. And Tommy has an unbelievable fighting spirit. They are giving it all they’ve got; but could use our thoughts and prayers right now.

I know how much your support means to them. I was a Dorchester kid who had cancer. And I remember how--when it got tough--everyone pitched in to help. I learned early the meaning of community and what working people can accomplish together.

My father came from Ireland with next to nothing, and found work as a laborer. When he joined the union, we became part of a bigger community. And that community, the labor community--like our neighborhood-- came together. We worked together, we struggled together, and we moved forward together---through thick and thin.

It’s that community we celebrate today, on Labor Day: the community of men and women committed and determined to help working people get ahead.

I am so proud to be part of this community, and so grateful.

We stand shoulder to shoulder today.

We stand dedicated to shared values and shared dreams.

We stand determined to make those dreams real for every working man and woman in our city, in our state, and in our nation.

And you know what? We’re making real progress.

--We secured the highest minimum wage of any state, giving more than 800,000 Massachusetts workers a raise.

--We extended health and safety protections to 67,000 state workers for the very first time, preventing the injuries and illnesses that devastate families.

--And thanks to our Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, our workers most at risk of exploitation will get the respect and protection they deserve.

I think that’s a pretty good year. What do you think?

Let me remind you how it happened:

--By making your case positively to voters, you helped elect two United States Senators and--last year--the Mayor of the City of Boston. I know how tirelessly you all worked for me. I know how important you were to our victory. Thank you. 

--And by working patiently with legislators, you secured that minimum wage hike, those safety protections, that Domestic Workers Bill, and much more.

--And together we have gone further: by bargaining respectfully with the City of Boston, this year police officers, fire fighters, EMS workers, and librarians secured new contracts that are good for them and good for taxpayers. Both sides came to the table as partners, with trust and respect. And the tide of history turned: away from costly arbitration, away from conflict; and toward equity, security, and collaboration.

Let me tell you, that’s a lot to celebrate. But just as important, it’s time to mark a turning point. You are building on success now. And that requires different tactics and a different tone. It’s time to do less battling, and more building. You don’t need a bullhorn when you’re in the boardroom. Believe me, they hear you loud and clear.

Here in Massachusetts—here in Boston—you are no longer on the outside looking in. You are at the table, helping to build a permanent foundation for change. I learned in the Building Trades that to make something that will stand the test of time, everyone has to work together to build a solid foundation. And when we are talking about our future, that means everyone. Workers and management. Elected officials, community leaders, and business owners. Everyone. Together.

The challenge we must meet together—that we can only meet together—is the biggest challenge facing this nation: it’s restoring the American Dream for every family.

We start here, in our City, where progressive traditions meet innovative ideas and get results for people. That’s how we’ll make opportunity real for everyone: by turning trust into cooperation, and cooperation into prosperity—in Boston, in Massachusetts, and across America.

There’s more to do. There is more than we can and must do. In Boston, I want to set a higher standard.

A minimum wage is a necessary protection. But it’s not enough to raise a family. It’s not enough to open the door into the middle class. There are too many families standing outside that door, wondering what it will take to open it. They are our neighbors: hard-working people in full-time jobs, doing everything they’re supposed to do to get ahead. But they are having trouble just making ends meet. What they deserve—what every worker in our city needs and deserves—is a living wage.

And here in Boston, we must lead by example. We will make sure every employer with a city contract pays wages that allow workers to build a life in our city. This summer we renewed our commitment to enforcing Boston’s Living Wage. I’m pleased to report that the City Council has unanimously approved my proposal to revitalize our Living Wage ordinance.

Every worker deserves protection. That’s why today I am announcing that in the coming weeks, I will submit legislation to tackle the problem of wage theft. It’s already illegal to deny fairly earned wages. But we all know someone who’s been hurt: someone who’s been cheated out of overtime, or had their job mis-classified. I want to make it absolutely clear to workers and employers alike that I am committed to uncovering violations and enforcing the law.

And my efforts won’t end there. I am determined to make Boston the country’s premier city for working families. To do that, we have to remove the obstacles standing in the way of so many workers. Women are a majority in Boston. And so are people of color. Yet both experience wage gaps. It’s time to stop accepting these disparities as inevitable. They are not. They represent opportunity denied to workers, and growth lost to our economy. That’s why I have directed policy experts across the City of Boston to focus our efforts on these challenges.

Our new Office of Women’s Advancement is looking at ways to break down the barriers that exist for women in the workforce. We are leading a movement of employers dedicated to closing deficits both in income and in leadership. We know that the labor movement has an answer for the wage gap: the contracts you negotiate guarantee women and men the same pay for the same work. But across our wider workforce, women remain at a disadvantage. And when it comes to equal representation at the leadership level, we all have work to do—in labor, in business, and in government. In 2014 women should not have to fight for equal opportunity and equal paychecks. We know that when women succeed in the workforce our families are stronger, our neighborhoods are stronger, and society as a whole is stronger.

And the same is true for people of color. Two thirds of Boston’s young people are Black or Latino. They are our future. But the disparities start early. They are reflected in infant health outcomes and educational gaps, and ultimately in lost opportunity. And that’s why our work has to begin with our children and youth.

Last month I visited the White House. I told President Obama we would be playing a leadership role in My Brother’s Keeper, his initiative to support young Black and Latino men. One of our first steps will be to implement a mentoring program. In the labor movement, you know the power of mentorship. That’s why Building Pathways is such an important model for us in this work. Apprenticeship is where mentoring becomes workforce training. Building Pathways opened the door to apprenticeship for women and people of color. We are working to replicate the success of Building Pathways for some of our most at-risk young men. I urge you, if you have not done so already, to partner with us, and to develop your own outreach programs. Help Massachusetts lead the way forward once again.

I want the rest of the country to look at Boston—a city led by a card-carrying union member—as a beacon. When I was a candidate, we were told I would be bad for business. Instead, since I've been elected, business is booming. New development is out-pacing last year by more than 25 percent. Every day, I get phone calls from established companies and new start-ups alike, looking to grow and expand in Boston. We have the opportunity to be a place where employers and labor work together: because they both understand you can’t have one without the other. And I want Boston to be a model of 21st-century workforce development: building a jobs pipeline, fed by great schools, and fueled by Boston’s values of inclusion and creativity. 

With Washington gridlocked, it is up to cities like Boston to take the lead. It’s up to mayors, from across the country, to work together to find solutions that will help the people and cities we serve.

That’s why I’m proud to have been appointed as Vice Chair of a new Task Force--created by the U.S. Conference of Mayors--called Cities of Opportunity. At our first meeting, in New York last month, we pledged to rebuild the infrastructure of the American Dream: Early Childhood Education; Access to Technology; Housing; Transportation; and Workforce Development.

But as I told my fellow mayors, we can’t do it without labor. Labor is on the front lines, organizing and training the workers whose real lives are reflected in all those statistics on income inequality. You know that it’s not just numbers on a page.

In too many communities, it’s hard to see opportunity on the horizon. For too many families, it’s harder than ever just to get by.

And for too many kids, the promise that hard work earns you a good life must seem empty.

It wasn’t that way when I was growing up on Taft Street. My parents raised our family on a single union worker’s salary. They were able to invest in our 3-family home. They sent my brother and me to parochial school. And they kept us safe in a close-knit community. They enabled me to live my American Dream, becoming Mayor of the city I love.

I want every family in Boston to have that same security. I want every child to have that same opportunity.

I want every family and every child in America to know that they can make their American Dream come true.

Our economy may have changed since I was a kid; but our values haven’t. America’s values—Boston’s values—are as solid as ever.

We believe in opportunity. In community. In equality—not that everyone gets the same check, but that everyone gets a fair shake. Let me explain what I mean:

-If you want to work, you should have access to training that will help you get a good job—whether you’re just starting out or starting over.

-And no matter what color you are, no matter where you come from, what you believe, or who you love: everyone gets the same chance.

That’s why our success has to be about more than short-term profits.

Our shared values have to come first—even and especially for the most powerful institutions and largest corporations.

That’s what we believe. That’s what we work for. These are the values that move this city forward and move America forward.

Look what happened at Market Basket. The workers there took a stand for what they believe in. Anyone saying their action had nothing to do with the labor movement is wrong. Standing together--that’s exactly how the labor movement started. When we work together, our differences don’t have to derail us. With cooperation, respect, and trust on all sides, every company in our state can--and will--thrive.

And that’s why I’m challenging you, the labor movement, to take the lead and set the tone that says: it’s time to work together.

What Americans want for our country; and what Bostonians want for our city: a labor movement that is strong and smart can provide. You’ve done it before and you can do it again. We need your energy, your ideas, your determination, and your heartfelt love of this great city and state. 

Everyone in this room knows how to lift people out of poverty, train workers for success, and build shared prosperity.

That’s how labor will help rebuild the middle class.

So today, on Labor Day, we celebrate your strength: the traditions, the achievements, the determination, and the dreams of America’s workers and the labor movement.

We celebrate community and commitment.

We re-dedicate ourselves to the work of providing opportunity for all.

And we recognize what we can do when we work together.

Because the fact is, we are in this together.

We make our city a hub of opportunity for all, only if we all come together.

Together, we can reverse the tide of income inequality and build the foundation of a just, lasting, and shared prosperity—here and all across America.

So Happy Labor Day.
God Bless the Labor Movement.
God Bless the City of Boston.
And God Bless the United States of America. 


page6image15792 page6image15952 page6image16112 page6image16272 page6image16432 page6image16592 page6image16752 page6image16912 page6image17072 page6image17232

Announcements

Related Links