Labor Day was founded in 1882 as a holiday to celebrate the economic and social contributions of the American worker. Working people built this nation. They're the engine of the American economy. They played the most vital role in making the United States the most powerful, successful country in the world during the 20th century.
Going into the second decade of the 21st century, we must not forget that a strong American workforce is still the only way the United States can remain a leading economic power and, at the same time, nurture vibrant communities. The only way to maintain this skilled and productive workforce is to ensure fair wages and benefits.
I'm proud of how the unions that make up the West Virginia AFL-CIO provide quality workers for construction sites, grocery stores, schools, government offices, coal mines, telecommunications firms, the gaming industry, the transportation and energy industries, hospitals and more. These unions have also achieved much for hardworking West Virginians. I'm proud of the United Mine Workers for ensuring their miners have good health care and pensions. I'm proud of the West Virginia State Building Trades for maintaining a drug-free and highly skilled workforce. I'm proud of the Communications Workers of America who are currently negotiating a fair labor agreement for their members employed at Frontier Communications.
All of our affiliated unions work every day to improve the working lives of their members. But not all workers have someone fighting for them.
Too many families in the United States, working more than 40 hours a week or multiple jobs, can't make ends meet. This means they must rely on some form of government assistance for the most basic necessities like food and housing. Many minimum wage employees work for multibillion-dollar big box stores or fast food outlets, and 10 million restaurant workers rely on tips to boost their pitiful minimum wage of $2.13 per hour.
We need to raise the minimum wage and show these workers the respect their labor deserves. Raising the minimum wage will add much-needed fuel to the American economic engine, which strengthens communities and their local businesses.
The West Virginia AFL-CIO will continue our efforts to protect the pensions and health care many Americans spent their entire working lives earning and paying into. We'll continue to advocate for robust local economies and we ask you to join us this Labor Day in recognizing and respecting what American workers have done for our communities and our country.
Perdue is president of the West Virginia American Federation of Labor, Congress of Industrial Organizations, a group of more than 575 unions.