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Social Justice

Annual Labor Day Picnic Draws Hundreds

Tiffany Eckert

At the behest of a burgeoning labor movement, Oregon became the first state to adopt Labor Day. That was in 1887. Today, workers of all ilk celebrate the first Monday of September by taking the day off. At a park in Springfield, hundreds of union supporters gathered for the annual Labor Day Picnic.

(Hear: sizzling on a grill and singer playing "America")

Bob Baldwin says sizzling burgers and homespun music are great but it's the camaraderie of this event that matters. Baldwin is the president of the Lane Central Labor Council and he says unions are under attack by corporate interests.

Baldwin: "That's the fight. We maintain wages, we maintain benefits. And we maintain a standard of living that non-union workers, broadly stated, don't enjoy. And we want to make sure that everyone has the standard of living that we do.

Baldwin has been a union man for almost 20 years. He expects the next industry to organize will be fast food.

Baldwin: "We're already seeing it. I think these folks have realized that they cannot live working 2, 3, 4 minimum wage jobs and they're going to demand a living wage."

Pat Riggs-Henson worked as a career advisor for Lane County until she retired. She says the fastest growing population in Oregon is retirees, a group she calls the "silver tsunami."

Credit Tiffany Eckert
Self proclaimed "union man" Don Bishoff eats a burger and visits with other union supporters.

Riggs-Henson: "And a lot of us are union members. We're just as active and just as strong now that we're retired. And it's a lot of fun seeing so many young people. Because now, you know, it's the next wave."

Union members of all ages attended this year's Labor Day picnic. They represent fields like health care, academics, grocery, and childcare.