President of SEIU (Service Employees International Union) Latanja Silvester, center, talks with a small group after the meeting held to protest to stop granting most ITEP requests and use the money instead to pay school employees at Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, Oct. 23, 2018.

This Labor Day, workers in Louisiana have an uncompromising demand for every candidate running in the 2019 elections: Unions for All. That means that everyone has the opportunity to join a union, no matter where they work.

In Louisiana, SEIU members are employees of state, city and parish governments, school districts, Head Start programs and public service divisions. Our members are tax-paying citizens, registered voters, community members, and faith leaders.

For SEIU members, Labor Day means many things. To the food service workers in public schools, it means our children receive the nutritious food they need to learn on the first day of school. To City of Baton Rouge Wastewater Collection employees, it means barbecues free from pollutants contaminating the air, soil or water.

This year, Labor Day is also a chance to make a demand: Unions for All.

The deck is stacked against Louisiana working people, and it’s time for workers to have a seat at the table, instead of corporations, special interest groups, and their favorite politicians making all the decisions. We are fighting for Unions for All to make sure everyone has a fair shot to get ahead.

As president of SEIU Louisiana, I know our fight is bigger than our members’ workplaces. Having more workers in unions is good for everyone. Stronger unions raise wages across the board and put more money in the pockets of all working people.

Unions are an important way to tackle racial disparities, too. According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, black union members earn 36% more than black workers who don’t have a union, and they’re more likely to have health insurance and retirement plans. According to the National Employment Law Project, white and brown workers do better too when we can join together to have a seat at the table. That’s probably why nearly half of Americans say they would join a union if they could.

Unfortunately, too few people in America today are able to join a union. The fact is, our labor laws haven’t caught up with the realities of today’s economy, and special interest groups have rigged the rules to put a union out of reach for too many workers.

So, it’s time for new rules and for city and state lawmakers to put working families front and center. And it’s time this Labor Day for working people across our state to demand Unions for All. Unions are the only way working people have ever gotten ahead in this country. And today, joining together in unions is the only shot for us to take back our state and fight back against the special interests that have rigged the system against us.

LaTanja Silvester

president, Service Employees International Union, Louisiana

New Orleans

Our Views: Best gift of Labor Day? A few well-deserved spare hours