Across the United States, Labor Day marks the end of summer, and a day off from the job for the lucky ones. We often forget that this holiday originated from strife, not leisure. Labor Day became a national holiday to celebrate America’s workers only because when workers demanded it.

With the economic crisis, it’s a time of unprecedented challenges for all working people. But Latinos have been hit particularly hard from every angle. Arizona’s immigration legislation is fueling an atmosphere of hostility towards Latino families. Republican Party leaders now want to repeal the fourteenth amendment and deny citizenship to the children of immigrants. And there still aren’t any jobs.

We must remember that big changes come from speaking in one voice, as one nation, together, demanding change. All workers must come together to call for a new economy–one that focuses on working families and job creation; one that recognizes and legitimizes all working people.

All over our stressed nation, communities of color now have the highest rates of unemployment. Latino unemployment has soared to 12.1 percent. Nearly one-fifth of Latino homeowners haves lost their homes or are facing an immediate risk of foreclosure.

Today, millions of people without legal status or protections are restricted to working in the shadows and subject to exploitation and abuse. Far too often, immigrant workers are taken advantage of by employers corporations and silenced by the threat of separation from their families.

If there was ever a time for boldness, it is now.

The United States needs a new national economic strategy for a global economy. We need a genuine investment in U.S. job creation to rebuild a healthy middle-class economy and a higher quality of life. We need a stronger economy that invests in our infrastructure to build good, green jobs, and stronger communities. We need retirement security and funding for our neglected communities.

We must also ensure this quality of life is available for each and every worker, regardless of their citizenship status in the U.S. Ultimately, we can’t restore job quality and the quality of life for all workers without addressing the status of our country’s millions of immigrants.

Immigration is also more than an economic issue. It’s a critical part of America’s proud legacy and history. How we treat our immigrants is a fundamental question of who we are as a nation.

Yet, for a majority of U.S. immigrants, there is no path to citizenship. For those who can take it, often that path can take decades to complete. The system is broken. We can’t afford to have a major segment of our critical segment of the population live a disenfranchised life.

The stakes are undeniably high.

With elections approaching in November, let’s remember the path forward and keep the focus on all working families. We need leaders who will support working communities and economic justice for all workers. President Barack Obama has forged a new path, and it’s up to us to choose to continue the journey.

This Labor Day is a reminder of the continual struggle for equality and justice for all workers. Corporations know all too well that if they divide workers, they can more easily silence our voices. But we won’t let them.

Come November, working people of every color must stand together and choose the path towards a middle-class economy for all workers. We can move forward to make the American dream a reality for all workers. Let’s unite to have our voices heard.

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Richard Trumka

Richard Trumka is the president of the AFL-CIO, the country's largest labor federation, which represents 11.5 million union

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