PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Monday is Labor Day, and what better way to spend it than by honoring those who work hard by throwing a parade.
“They make me feel good for the labor movement. You know, it’s still there, it’s still thriving and the people are still interested in it,” said Nancy Gardner, co-chair of the Labor Day parade committee.
Starting on Monroe at Fulton Monday morning, 39 organizations, schools, and unions represented the Peoria workforce to celebrate workers’ rights.
“It’s surprising just how many members are in our communities live, work, bring, share. We do everything in the community. All union members do,” said Gardner.
The parade started during World War II because of the difference the workforce made, but was paused after the war was over. Now, Gardner has helped organize the parade since 2000, when it was put back on again.
She helped organize the event and said despite the parade getting canceled the last two years because of COVID-19, hundreds of laborers were excited to share just how important unions are.
“Just seeing all the different unions here and their members coming out and actually participating,” said Gardner. “We haven’t been able to do this for two years, and I think I really appreciate it more than what we were doing before.”
From the teachers union, to the fire department to steamfitters, local pipe fitter Ryan Flora said it’s important that everybody works together.
“We all help each other out and try to make it a better working environment for everybody, try and make sure everybody gets their piece of the pie and everybody can put food on the table for the families,” said Flora.
Flora is a fourth-generation pipe fitter and said being a part of a union turns co-workers into family. “I’m a fourth-generation pipe fitter, so we know a lot of the guys from the apprentices all the way up to the guys that have been retired for 55 years. It’s a big family and it’s a lot of fun.”
Many of the people in the parade held signs that said “Vote yes on the Workers’ Rights Amendment.”
The amendment, which will be on the Nov. 8 ballot, will update the Illinois constitution to guarantee every Illinoisan has the right to join together with other workers to negotiate for better pay, improved benefits, and safe working conditions.
Peoria Fire Department Fire Chief Shawn Sollberger said the amendment is especially important to firefighters.
“It’s so important for firefighters. We talk about brotherhood, sisterhood and all those things are real,” said Sollberger. “So having the significance of today and having the parade and having the public out supporting all the the workforce is extremely important.”
Sollberger said when talking about worker’s rights, it’s important to recognize worker’s compensation, and the ability to negotiate.
For union members and non-union members alike, the day was created to recognize the work and contributions of laborers to the development and achievements of the United States.