Old fashioned Labor Day party held in Manistee

On Labor Day, a group of Manistee residents remembered the days when unions built the middle class. Some 80 union and middle class supporters celebrated at St. Joe’s Civic Center. The event was sponsored by the Steelworkers Union, the AFL-CIO, the MEA and FairShake.

Participants enjoyed a history board put together by Mark Fedder of the Manistee County Historical Museum. They sang 1930s union organizing songs led by Tim Joseph, Nick Veine and Joy Smith. Participants listened to short speeches by Josh Swenson, a former union member; Alice Snyder of the Postal Workers; Nanci Swenson, retired Michigan Education Association member; and Joan Alflen of the Dominican Sisters.

Kathy Knechtges (center) speaks. (Courtesy photo)

Many local Steelworkers attended from Manistee County Transportation and PCA, as well as members of the Pipefitters and AFL-CIO. Richard Knechtges convened the event and his wife Kathy coordinated it.

“It was worth it,” Kathy Knechtges said. “This is fun. And it means something. Working together, we’ll help the middle class come back.”

Eddie’s on the Beach did a great job providing hot dogs, beans, nachos and punch. The Civic Center provided a full bar, and In keeping with being a traditional Labor Day event, the beer was popular.

“Our Labor Day Rally was a success in that it raised awareness in the community simply by happening,” said Joy Smith of the MEA. “It was also successful in bringing together people from various unions in the area for the purpose of discussion and sharing of union activities and concerns. Part of the point of having unions is to bring people together to work for common goals. At this time in America, the simplest goals of quality of life for this generation and those to come must be raised as a standard for action against terrible pressures from big money and corporate interests.”

A video by Kathy Knechtges showed events in labor’s history in America as well as some current events.

“Unions have done wonderful things for the American people, but unions have now been completely taken for granted,” Kathy Knechtges said. “When things are taken for granted, they disappear. People need to remember that only 100 years ago, we had children 8 years old working full time in coal mines under horrendous conditions. That wasn’t that long ago. Since unions have become weaker, recently, we have seen a very rapid decline in conditions for American workers. We are losing job opportunities, and wages and benefits are falling.

“Also,” she continued, “if unions disappear, it will be mainly only wealthy people who have the money to buy political ads. Under these conditions, American working people could lose everything they have. We already see it starting now. Everyone who cares about these issues is invited to join FairShake to help work on the problems.”

Nanci Swenson stressed the need to get involved.

“So, how is that ‘trickle down’ economic theory work for you? I thought so,” she said. “It certainly is a pretty measly trickle all right!

“ Let’s Get Political,” Swenson continued. “We could take all that money (for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq) and create 5,310,000 jobs here in America paying $30,000 a year, rebuilding our bridges, our roads, our schools. Now that’s a job program.”

Information on FairShake is available by searching “FairShake” at www.facebook.com.

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