ISHPEMING– Upper Peninsula Unions are out in force, but members have traded in their picket–signs for candy on this march.
“They just had a parade for Labor Day, all the local unions were out in support, kids and stuff were out in support and families where out,” said event attendee Luke Sullivan.
The day began with union members gathering at the Cliff Shafts Mine Museum, with a chance for parade marchers to gather and “enjoy each others company, have a good day and reminisce about the year a little bit,” according to Upper Peninsula Regional Labor Federation President Micheal Thibaul.
The parade includes a number of different organized labor groups from the area. The President of Marquette/Alger Community Labor Council Rich Helgren said, “Look around, there’s a lot of pipe fitter, steal workers, iron workers, sheet metal workers, there’s carpenters, electrons, it’s all the organized labor from the U.P.”
After the parade a picnic was held for union members and their families, the event featured food, games, a bouncy house, live music and speeches from local politicians.
For incoming Marquette County Sheriff Greg Zyburt, “Today it’s just getting out there, shaking hands and seeing people and having a great, great weekend.”
The mood in the air is jubilant, but for many people this day have a very serious significance.
Helgren said that “Labor Day is kind of a special and monumental event, it marks the labor strife of people who came before and what sacrifices they had to have.”
Beth Berkheiser, an retired union officer who was watching the Ishpeming Labor Day Parade said “I think it’s real important that people recognize, today, the importance of the union and the laborers that have fought so hard in this country to give us the benefits that we have.”
For many attendants and participants, this was day to celebrate labor unions and what they believe the unions have accomplished.
The Chairman of Labor Day Festival Tony Ghiringhelli said “Safety, environmental, some of the laws and the fair wages, child labor laws into effect and we wouldn’t have that if it wasn’t for the sacrifices of people from before.
This year the theme is “Bridging Generations of Labor,” and some attendees spoke about the importance of keeping young people involved in labor and in the U.P.
Democratic Congressional Candidate Lon Johnson said, “Everyone here is working to create a place, a Northern Michigan, Upper Peninsula where our families can succeed.”
Thibaul said that he hoped they could create, “An opportunity for our young people to stay in the U.P”