Working people, labor hit center stage

(A large group of people congregate Monday in downtown Watsonville, during a rally to support labor on Labor Day. Photo by Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian)

WATSONVILLE — More than 200 people gathered for a noisy rally in downtown Watsonville Monday — Labor Day — for a united show of solidarity for working people, fair wages and safer working conditions.

Put on by the Monterey Bay Central Labor Council, the four-hour event, which included a barbecue, spread out between Watsonville Plaza and the grassy field across Main Street.

A host of speakers addressed the crowd including Congressman Jimmy Panetta.

“Working men and women who want to unionize have the financial resources to do so,” Panetta said. “We’ve got to make sure they have the support. We’re going to find out a lot of things with the vote in November; it’s really important. Look, if we want change we’ve got to not just speak up, we’ve got to stand up and we’ve got to start walking to the voting booth. My message is to support working men and women. This is a democracy where it takes everyone to participate and part of that participation is voting — that’s the most important message today.”

Monterey County Supervisor Luis Alejo also made a showing.

“Being Labor Day it’s an important day that we come together as supporters of labor unions,” Alejo said. “As an elected official I am here for the rights that unions fought for over many decades. Our families were beneficiaries of labor rights — some fought in Salinas and Watsonville — and we can’t take that for granted. It’s important to teach the next generation of how important it is to stand up for our rights to fight for worker protections.”

Drew Glover, who is running for a seat on the Santa Cruz City Council said, “Unions are important. We owe unions for the rights that we enjoy as citizens every day. A lot of people don’t even understand the fact that we have weekends is due to the struggle of the worker’s unions and the workers advocates throughout the history of the United States. And now especially with the threats against the unions and organizations around the country and here in California that are trying to dismantle workers' protections, it's imperative more than ever that we have strong unions, elected officials and people in power that are ready to advocate and push for strong contracts that mandate living wages for people.”

Jeffrey Smedberg, executive vice president Monterey Bay Central Labor Council, joined the rally and march to the plaza.

“This country was built by working people," he said. "We are just reminding everybody that the working people are the most important part of our economy and our society. This is our day, Labor Day. It feels very optimistic today that we have a lot of support, a lot of working people who understand that they are powerful and that they matter."


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