On Scene with Bill Wilson: Laboring for Change

Photo089074US Secretary of Labor Thomas E.  Perez

San Francisco is losing its middle class, – a problem not unique to the city, but one that is being experienced across the nation. The Department of Labor’s Women Bureau is sponsoring a series of regional summits that will culminate on June 23 with the White House Summit on Working Families. In remarks before the regional forum recently held in San Francisco, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez outlined the problem,

“We’re here today to tackle head-on the very issues that keep working families up at night: What if I get sick again and have to miss work… how will we pay for day care? I’d like to take that extra shift to earn more money, but who will watch the kids? What happens if mom can’t live on her own anymore and I have to take time off to look after her? And, how am I going to take time off after childbirth if I don’t get a paycheck for three months?

These families are buckling under the strain of trying to balance their commitment to their jobs and their commitments at home. They’re waking up early, finishing that last load of laundry, packing lunches, waiting at the bus stop in bad weather, trying to stay on top of everything.

They are absolutely heroic. And it’s about time we started treating them like it. We have to create a system that allows people to be a good parent and a good worker. We have to create an economy where American families can be strong.

Photo089133resizedLabor Secretary Perez addressing the Regional Forum held in San Francisco for the Working Families White House summit.

The world has fundamentally changed. The economy has changed. The workforce has changed. Families have changedThe culture has changed. Now we need public policy to change too. I mean, Modern Family is on our televisions, but Leave it to Beaver still informs our laws.

What’s at stake here is really our commitment to the basic bargain of America — if you work hard and take responsibility for yourself and your family, then you can succeed. You can punch your ticket to the middle class. You can have a roof over your head and a nest egg for retirement. You can send your kids to college and do a little better than your parents did.

But that bargain’s under siege. Too many people are finding their highest and best dreams beyond their grasp. Too many are finding the rungs on the ladder of opportunity further apart, and not as sturdy as they had been promised.

So today, let’s commit ourselves to restoring that basic bargain. Let’s commit ourselves to an economy that truly rewards hard work and responsibility.

It might not happen quickly. And it definitely won’t happen without some tenacity on our part. But I am unrelentingly optimistic.”

Photo089132resizedLabor Secretary Perez in San Francisco.

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