September 7, 2020
Press Release

LOS ANGELES – Today, Congressman Ted W. Lieu (D-Los Angeles County) issued the following statement in honor of Labor Day.

“On Labor Day we celebrate the achievements of the American labor movement and honor the indelible contributions American workers have made to our society. In the middle of an unprecedented global pandemic, this holiday is more important than ever. Every day, our nurses, doctors, first responders and other essential workers put their lives at risk to serve on the front lines of this crisis, and we should all be grateful.

“Throughout our nation’s history, labor activists have risen up against institutionalized injustice to improve the lives of American workers. Each Labor Day, I like to highlight some of these heroes and their achievements.”

Emma Tenayuca

Emma Tenayuca was a Mexican American labor organizer, best known for her leadership in the 1938 San Antonio Pecan Shellers’ Strike. At the age of 20, she emerged as a leader of pecan shellers, most of them women, who suffered a dramatic cut in wages at the Southern Pecan Shelling Company. Tenayuca led more than 12,000 workers in a strike to demand fair wages. After spending 37 days in jail, she helped negotiate a wage increase for the pecan shellers. Many historians consider the Pecan Shellers’ Strike as the first significant victory in the Mexican American struggle for political and economic equality in America. Tenayuca became known as La Pasionaria de Texas after her tireless efforts to protect workers in her community.  

Esther Eggertsen Peterson

Esther Eggertsen Peterson was a trailblazer and a voice for working women and the American consumer. In 1939, she joined the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union (ACWU) and became the organization’s first lobbyist in Washington, D.C, where she advocated for an increase in the minimum wage. When John F. Kennedy became President in 1961, he appointed Peterson to the head of the Women’s Bureau in the Department of Labor, where she spent time speaking with working women about the discrimination they’d encountered in the workplace. Peterson also established the President’s Commission on the Status of Women to study and develop ways to achieve gender equality. The Commission’s final report, which addressed the lack of equal pay for equal work and women concentrated in low-wage work, became a best-seller. Peterson eventually became a driving force behind the passage of the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and was named assistant secretary of labor for labor standards. She was also an advocate for the consumer and fought for truth in advertising as well as standardization in pricing across industries.

Nelson Hale Cruikshank

Nelson Hale Cruikshank was the first director of the AFL-CIO Department of Social Security and a fierce advocate for the elderly and people with disabilities. Cruikshank worked for the AFL as a lobbyist and advocated for federal social insurance programs such as national health care insurance and income support for the poor and the unemployed. As director of the AFL-CIO Department of Social Security, he helped build the political coalition that passed Social Security Disability Insurance in 1956. Cruikshank was also a chief architect of Medicare, the federal health insurance program for the elderly.