Unions celebrate the American workforce at state fair march

Sep 1, 2014

It’s Labor Day, which marks both the unofficial end to summer as well as a day to celebrate the American workforce.

But there are half as many Americans in a labor union today as there were 30 years ago. It’s down to about one in 10 workers.

"We got to do everything we can to try and gain back that number and that’s important. We got to have the middle class again," said steelworker Brian Hoige. "It’s either the rich or the poor, there’s not really any middle class left to speak of anymore."

Hoige is the local president for the United Steel Workers employees at Crucible Steel.

Hoige, and a few hundred other union members, marched today in the annual Labor Day parade at the state fairgrounds. The Teamsters drove a tractor trailer, while state workers chanted.

Being in a union today is about the rights of workers, said Colleen Wheaton, the regional president for the civil service employees union, CSEA.

"We are working to bring the unions back, organized labor is working together for one common good. And that is the American worker," she said.

Several union members at the parade echoed a theme of solidarity that they say is lost without unions.

"One voice is heard and everyone backs you," said Marc Denicola, a journeyman roofer. "Everyone stands behind you."

Labor Day dates back to the 1890s as a day for unions to rally. Unions have helped institute the five-day workweek, health benefits and safer working conditions. The strength and influence of unions has declined in recent decades as enrollment numbers have dwindled.