Honoring Workers Who Make Our Lives Possible

May 1, 2021

As I reflect on May Day, I can’t help but think of my third son who is a May Day baby and turning seven this Saturday. He returned to school after a challenging year at home. Teachers, resource specialists, and other essential educators and staff are reengaging with our children in person, and I am thankful for their careful and focused attention to my child’s special needs and safety protocols during what is still a very volatile pandemic.

As our city reopens, I especially honor the frontline workers who continue to make our lives possible. In Los Angeles, as in many parts of the world, immigrants are essential workers, so when we advocate for worker rights, we also push for immigrant rights. I remain inspired by immigrant workers, their courage, their work, and their contributions throughout Los Angeles and around the world.

As I reflect on the past year and plan for moving forward, I pledge to rededicate my own efforts at the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment to develop empirical and policy-driven research, curricula that is student- and worker-centered, and service projects to promote actionable, thoughtful, and forward-thinking policies that enhance worker safety, fair wages, and social justice.

This weekend, I encourage you to honor and reflect on the courageous, heroic, and important impact workers have had not only this past year but also throughout history. We must also pay tribute to and honor the hundreds of thousands of workers who we lost to COVID-19 and the irrevocable impact their deaths have had on children, spouses, families, communities, and workplaces.

As Los Angeles moves to fully reopen, our engagement with essential workers will increase. It is my hope that our partnerships with workers, the labor movement, and worker advocates will result in more inclusive, equitable, and fair wages and workplace benefits. Essential workers are heroes, and their worth and contributions have never been clearer than during the past year. Now we must move forward to rebuild with them leading the way. Join me on May Day in celebrating the contributions of all workers. We owe them our gratitude and our commitment to creating a just labor market for all.


Abel Valenzuela Jr. 

Abel Valenzuela Jr. is director of the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, Special Advisor to the Chancellor on Immigration Policy, and professor of Chicano studies and urban planning. He is the author of several research articles, books and reports on demography and population studies, immigrant labor markets, immigrant settlements and urban economies. His work has helped frame numerous national public policy narratives concerning immigrants in America’s workforce.