Bill Hemmerich says Labor Day is for the workers.
“Our day is to celebrate our contribution to the economy,” said Hemmerich, who retired after 45 years as an electrical worker.
“Once I got in the trade, I always have a union, on my side, to fight for me,” he said.
Though retired, he just received his 55-year pin, an IBEW Local 494 man for life.
Hemmerich was one of the many union workers and their family and friends that gathered Monday outside Local 494 for an annual Labor Day celebration.
Several area unions, including IBEW Local 494, Steamfitters Local 601 and Plumbers Local 75, came together to hold International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers/United Association Labor Day Gathering.
They celebrated with beer, brats, games for the kids and a live band all afternoon long.
This year’s gathering attracted some notable guests, including Governor Tony Evers and County Executive David Crowley.
"The unions in Wisconsin created our middle class. And the unions in Wisconsin will make our middle class even stronger,” said Evers in front of the stage during a break in the live music.
"If you want to be successful, if you want to see this economy grow, we have to invest in our workforce. We have to invest in our workforce,” said Crowley, wearing a IBEW Local 494 shirt.
According to U.S. government data, union members accounted for 8.7 percent of wage and salary workers in Wisconsin last year, up from 8.1 percent in 2019.
Membership peaked in the state in 1989 at nearly 21 percent.
Family members at the event said they’d like to see more young people involved in the unions.
"It has meant better pay, better benefits and job security. They take care of you,” said Fay Hendricks, the wife of a Steamfitters Local 601 member.
For Fay, Labor Day has an even deeper personal connection.
She gave birth on back to back Labor Day weekends around 50 years ago.
And the timing may have had an impact – two of her children and a grandchild are union workers.