Happy September and, more importantly, happy Labor Day. While many parts of the country view this holiday as the end of summer or the start of the school year, Idahoans know the importance of celebrating the dignity of work and our union men and women.

From our earliest days, Idahoans knew the role hard work played in the success of building our towns, our schools and our future. They knew in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries that survival in the rugged mountains, old-growth forests and windswept plains of Idaho required not only self-reliance and self-confidence, but also a willingness to come together to build and improve communities. It was as true in Idaho’s mining and logging towns as it was in our farming and railroad communities. The dignity of work wasn’t just important for its inherent value. It actually built things. It made lives better. It created safer communities. It paved the way for a better future.

Labor union men and women played a vital role in making those things happen. Union members built transportation routes, grew local economies, made the companies for which they worked more successful, and they provided a tax base for local governments to create school systems and government services needed by growing families. Labor union members also fought for safer working conditions, employment stability, better wages and improved working hours.

Along the way, Idaho’s labor unions promoted the value of hard work as a social compact upon which society and its workers could rely. As Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown puts it, “The dignity of work means hard work should pay off for everyone, no matter who you are or what kind of work you do.”

My grandfather earned his living as a railroader here in Pocatello, and so did two of my great-grandfathers. I have other relatives who clean buildings, serve as corporate executives, drive truck, work in high-tech industries, teach school, and work in nursing. Whether you sweep floors or run the place, hard work deserves respect and support.

Labor unions continue to play an important role in our communities. For that reason, I spend time listening to union members’ concerns and ensuring I understand their challenges. Just in the last several months, I have met with leaders from the local firefighters union, AFL-CIO, and the local teachers union. These meetings are vital to my ability to represent working men and women throughout our community.

I look forward to continuing to work with union workers throughout Idaho. Working Idahoans need someone in their corner, fighting for their rights to live and work to their full potential. I look forward to filling that role in the Idaho Legislature.

James Ruchti,