Laborfest 2017 celebrates local unions

More than 5,000 people attend Labor Day event
Posted at 5:36 PM, Sep 04, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-04 19:27:02-04

Organizers say more than 5,000 people attended this year's Laborfest at the Summerfest grounds Monday.

The event began with a parade through downtown Milwaukee and ended with a family-friendly event at Henry Maier Festival Park.

Nearly 100 local unions were represented at the event.

"It's a bonafide tradition here in Milwaukee," said Pam Fendt, the president of the Milwaukee Area Labor Council

She calls the event is a tribute to the American worker.

"We just like to show our strength in numbers and our pride in what we do," said Fendt. "We have everything from nurses, teachers, plumbers, electricians, operating engineers, you name it we got all kinds of workers."

Many families came to support their union and to be around other like-minded people.

"I enjoy the people, I know a lot of them that's in his local, been around them a long time and it's good to see them because I don't get to see them often," said Pat Riley, whose husband is in Local 113.

Chris Gray is a member of Teamsters Local 344. He and his wife Julie have participated in the parade for 15 years.

"You work hard for this, we enjoy our weekends and we work, it's just about the labor movement you know," said Chris.

Getting the younger generation excited about unions is a focus at Laborfest. This year, they honored several high school students who recently finished a week long day camp where they learned all about unions.

"Unions have helped shape the economy in a way that helps balance work and family better and earn a fair wage for what they do so I think that's why it's important for our students to learn the history," said Fendt.

John Smith drove his Chevy Camaro in the parade after retiring from the United Steelworkers.

"I just like the crowd, I like the people that like the cars, I get into it when I see them in the parade laughing, cheering on the car," he said.

Local unions fundraise in order to put on the event every year.

"You get to see a lot of people, a lot of them think pretty much like we do, they're all hard working people and they're real, just normal everyday hard working people," said John Danek, a member of IBEW 494.

The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on September 5, 1882, in New York City. It was held by the Central Labor Union. It became an official nationwide holiday in 1894.

"We fight for all workers and it's important that workers are treated fairly and with dignity," said Annie Wacker, the vice president of the Milwaukee Area Labor Council. "To make sure people get a decent wage and decent benefits and have a voice on the job."