This Labor Day, I have had the opportunity to reflect on the enduring legacy of working people and labor unions in shaping the fundamental rights and freedoms we enjoy today. We must not forget that things we take for granted, like the 40-hour work week, weekends, and fair working conditions, weren't handed to us; they were wrested from the clutches of corporate greed by the relentless dedication and sacrifices of working people.
That work is far from over. Too many folks continue to toil under meager wages, are undervalued and are denied access to opportunities. Income inequality continues to eat away at our collective prosperity. The brunt of this inequality is borne disproportionately by folks in our community, women and people of color, who endure wage gaps and systemic inequity. While we've made some headway, we cannot afford complacency. Now, more than ever, we must recommit ourselves to the ongoing battle for working people and a more just future.
In Harris County, we are working in that spirit year-round. My office is proud to work on the following programs that aim to build a more inclusive economy that works for everyone:
- Worker Protections: In Harris County, we prioritize the safety and well-being of working people. We now require county contractors to provide OSHA safety training for construction jobs, empowering workers with the knowledge and tools to stay safe on the job.
- Access to Good-Paying Jobs: The Advantage Apprenticeship program, in collaboration with labor unions and non-profits, is breaking down barriers to entry for individuals in underserved areas. This program provides training in high-demand industries such as construction, public transportation, tech, and other trades, paving the way for individuals to access good jobs.
- Second Chance Hiring Policy: Formerly incarcerated people have the highest unemployment rates and are more likely to experience homelessness because of their interaction with the criminal legal system. In Harris County, our second chance policy bans county departments from asking about an applicant’s criminal history, which helps level the playing field.
These programs are part of a unified blueprint for change, Harris PROSPERS (Pathways to Realize Opportunity, Security, Potential, Equity, Resilience, and Safety). It is a commitment to fairness, inclusivity, and shared prosperity through a set of investments to ensure everyone has a safe roof over their heads, an income floor to support basic needs and access to good jobs that pay a living wage.
Never forget that progress comes from all of us working together, shoulder to shoulder. Let’s unite in solidarity and keep pushing to give working people the respect and opportunities they deserve.