Local Labor Day festival attracts hundreds

ISHPEMING — Ishpeming was the place to be this afternoon as a slew of community members came out to show their support for our local unions. ABC 10’s Chelsea Birdsall has more.

“Working Together, Leading the Way.” That was the theme for today’s Labor Day Festival in Ishpeming. The event brought out everyone from children to senior citizens, all showing their support for the plethora of local unions who marched through downtown all the way to Lake Bancroft Park.

“It’s great to see all of the community support here, lots of people lining the whole parade route, and the whole community-feel with all the different unions here together,” said Fred Cole, a teacher at Marquette Senior High School.

Cole marched with the Michigan Education Association today, which holds the title as the oldest labor union in the country.

“We’re here to support working men and women all across education, all across trades, all across the country,” said Cole. “Labor Day is a nice holiday at the end of the summer, but it’s also recognition for the working people of this country. And we’re out here to show our support for them, especially for the Marquette Nurses and their crucial time right now.”

“We’re here with the rest of our union brothers and sisters, to show that we are united and that we’re standing for the good of the people that work,” said Union Leader, Scott Balko. “This area of the U.P. is very union strong, and I know my other brothers and sisters of other unions are out there to back us up just as we would be there to back them up.”

Balko was amongst dozens marching the nurses union, who are in the midst of negotiating with UP Health System – Marquette to get contract language changed to ensure staffing levels necessary for patient safety. The nurses have been working off contract for over a month and last week they approved a strike authorization.

“We’re hoping for the best and hoping that we’re putting enough pressure on the employer to hopefully get them to move a little bit and get a contract,” Balko said. “As I’ve said before, we’re not interested in striking; we’re interested in getting a contract and going back to work.”

With hundreds of union members lining the streets in support of one another, members were ecstatic to see so much community support.

“We’re trying to promote the idea that trades have brought weekends, higher pay, wages and benefits to the average person,” said Jim Calouette, a member of the Local Boilermakers 169. “It’s great to see that people realize what we do for them.”

“Labor day means exactly this – all of the people that work hard and all of these different industries coming out and getting together and celebrating the fact that we can work fairly and together,” said Balko.