By Cheryl R. Brown
As we reflect on the meaning and purpose of Labor Day it’s fitting to think on the modern day labor movement. After decades of success in securing the growth of the middle class in the private sector, public sector labor unions are now equally if not more dominant in policy arguments and political affairs. Private sector growth will help the Inland Empire sustain manageable public sector services. We know that a good economy is one with a robust middle class and a well-trained workforce. The American Labor Movement has been instrumental in building both.
In challenging times, Inland residents do well to look toward dedicating ourselves to a future where business and labor collaborate for solutions that benefit all communities. Despite what over-heated rhetoric might suggest, most people want to live in quality environments, have enough to make ends meet, and leave the next generation in a better position than where we started. Longtime small business owners like my husband Hardy and I have seen the evolution of this region’s economy from a hub of citrus and grape farming to a manufacturing base with Kaiser Steel (where Hardy worked for a number of years) to a bedroom community and now the emergent health and service industries.
When we bought a small newspaper in 1980, we organized a union shop through the Hod Carriers; the same was true of printing and book publishing businesses we owned for a time. As a planner at the San Bernardino County Planning Department I served as an employee representative to the San Bernardino County Employees Association. The right to organize is fundamental to democracy as is the right to bargain for wages and benefits.
It is my hope that the Inland region of California is reaching the end of its economic troubles and beginning a resurgence led by the health, construction, service, manufacturing, and transportation industries.
Such a rebound is possible with a focused conversation on private sector economic growth and ways we can partner to encourage positive efforts. We are in a prime position to bring businesses back from other places because we have leading institutions of higher education, solid weather, improved transportation routes that can be bettered with continued investment, and a will to win the jobs race in California. Unlike other regions, we Inland people are prepared to lead on the question of jobs right now.
I am a daughter and niece of domestic workers. I myself cleaned desert motels in Palm Springs in the 1960s and can tell you that all labor has dignity because human beings endeavor to perform a service with which they can be proud and useful to employers and customers. Domestic work is challenging and wages for hard labor have never been high.
I learned a great deal from my mother and aunts who worked in other people’s homes so that their children might be homeowners themselves one day. I was personally inspired to pursue my education so I could further myself and my family by having the opportunity to run a business from production, to cleaning my building, making payroll, and hiring employees.
With a sustainable economic turnaround, the status of all workers and their families will be improved. On this Labor Day, may we celebrate the gains of the past, the security of the present, and the opportunities for a future of jobs, growth, strong businesses, and a healthy economy.
Cheryl Brown is a San Bernardino small business owner and civic leader. She is also a candidate for the 47th Assembly District (Fontana, San Bernardino, Rialto, Colton, Grand Terrace, Bloomington & Muscoy) 1580 N. WATERMAN AVENUE Page PAGE 1 of NUMPAGES 2 SAN BERNARDINO, CA 92404