‘One job should be enough’

Jeff vonKaenel

It's a simple sentence, five short words. Yet, somehow, packed into that sentence is a vision that includes all Americans, a practical political plan with attainable goals for the issues of housing and income inequality, a rallying call for the 21st century labor movement and a life-changing slogan for some of Sacramento's daycare workers.

“One job should be enough.” This was said repeatedly at the 20th annual Sacramento Central Labor Council's Salute to Labor Awards Dinner that honored the life's work of Jack Loveall, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 588, and recognized the organizing achievement of Child Care Providers United. The dinner was held Oct. 25 at the Arden Hilton, where our food was prepared and served by union workers.

Yvonne Walker, president of both Service Employees International Union Local 1000 and the Sacramento Central Labor Council, led off the evening, saying that we need to work for an America that enables every full-time worker to have adequate housing, food, transportation, childcare, health care and retirement benefits. She told us that something is deeply wrong with our country when a person needs to work two or three jobs just to get by. More than eight million Americans work more than one job, and many more are living on the street or in their cars because they can't afford housing.

Picking up upon Walker's theme, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg explained his work to develop programs to decrease the cost of housing, to make sure the economic development funds from Measure U go to low-income neighborhoods and to help increase the wages of Sacramento workers.

Fabrizio Sasso, executive director of the Sacramento Central Labor Council, called for a labor movement that lets in everyone. He said that this is a critical time for America's labor unions because while they represent only 10% of the workforce, a new generation of labor leaders is expanding the role of unions to not only represent their members but to represent all of America.

According to Sasso, it was the union movement that made the American dream possible. Things that we now might take for granted—including Social Security, a minimum wage, safer workplaces and a 40-hour work week—were all made possible by the organizing power of our labor unions. All Americans have benefited from labor's struggles.

After a moving tribute to Loveall's 50 years of service, the dinner concluded with the Excellence in Organizing award going to Child Care Providers United. Although they are doing our community's most important work, taking care of our children, these childcare workers rarely receive more than minimum wage and have historically had very little power in the workplace.

They are delighted that Gov. Gavin Newsom recently signed a bill granting them the ability to negotiate wages and benefits with the state. Childcare workers who never before were involved in union activities were amazed that they received so much support from the labor movement. Now, they are able to negotiate with their bosses as equals for better wages for themselves, and to advocate for making childcare more affordable and available.

They appreciated being part of something bigger than themselves, part of a movement—a movement that believes one job should be enough.

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About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.