Rudy Gonzalez, headshot

In the time I’ve spent working in the labor movement, I’ve been lucky enough to pick up a few skills in fighting for the kinds of mandates that unions and councils have been winning (and sometimes losing) for centuries.

I’m talking about regulatory government mandates to curb the socially irresponsible and selfish tendencies of the powers that be. Or project labor agreements that attempt to beat back the capitalist class’ default mode of “Me first, and the society surrounding me a telescopically distant second.”

You know — the typical stuff we do to protect one another on the job, ensure we can put a nice roof over our heads, and help to lift the boats of workers everywhere.

Yet for the first time in my career, I have recently found myself fighting for mandates that would check the self-concerned and reactionary behavior not of the ruling class — but of my own brothers, sisters, and siblings in the building trades who have decided not to be vaccinated.

While I don’t agree with their rejection of the vaccines, I still respect these members and am duty-bound to advocate for their best interests. It’s a strange and tough spot to be in when I speak with an employer who is genuinely concerned about running a safe and healthy workplace (usually something I hound them about), and then I speak to an anti-vaccine tradesperson who detests the notion of showing proof of vaccination to an employer.

To these members: Your beliefs are your own. But for one moment, I ask you to please set them aside and consider the following.

A proud, card-carrying, dues-paying union member is a special kind of worker because they know how to think both rationally and collectively and use such thinking to their advantage. This thinking is what brought you into a union in the first place.

This thinking has resulted in significant gains for you as an individual.

A great number of us are still out of work. As many of us as possible need to get back to work and earn our good union wages once again, or else we face eviction, foreclosure, homelessness, and destitution.

We need to go back to normal as a society of healthy people, to be able to visit friends and go to Giants games and go out to eat without having to wear a mask in the door.

We can’t do any of this if the hospitals are spilling over with COVID patients who chose not to be vaccinated.

If we insist on being a sick society instead of just getting vaccinated, things will only get worse for us. On a very basic level, neither you nor your fellow worker out in the field wants to get sick with the COVID Delta variant. In this case, being sick is unpleasant at worst if you have been vaccinated — versus deadly at worst if you haven’t.

The rights we fight for are the right to live a poverty-free life, the right to quality care for our sick and aging, the right to work safe jobsites, and the right to enjoy secure retirements. We don’t fight for the right to spread around a deadly disease rather than endure a tiny needle prick.

So, let’s organize and vaccinate. Let’s show this country that Labor is on the front line of defense in the war against workers and the war of deadly disinformation. Let’s use our rational, collective voices to save our jobs, our industries, our workers and their families, and our lives.

This Labor Day, let’s celebrate one another and the strength of our 125 years as a council. Let’s remind the greater public that we are in fact the leaders of a movement that fights for the rights of all workers.

Let’s celebrate Labor Day next year, too. Please get vaccinated.

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