East Moline's Labor Day Parade brought hundreds of unions members onto the streets.|
They wanted to remind people of what they see as the importance of organized labor to the economy and to society.
"We are the ones that built this country," said Terri Dempsey, of East Moline, who said she came from a union family. "We are making sure the young people know the importance of unions."
The theme of the East Moline parade was "Work Connects Us All, Honoring America's Workers," and the grand marshal was former U.S. Rep. Phil Hare.
Gil Sierra, a retired Oscar Mayer employee, marched with UFCW Local 431.
He said that, when he worked for Oscar Mayer in Davenport, 20 percent of the workforce was union. Now, he said, it's just 8 percent. The rich and their Republican backers, as he sees it, are trying to break the unions and roll back the gains labor has won for working people.
"Right now, they are trying to break the postal workers union, the biggest federal union," he said. "I think they want us to work seven days a week and have no days off."
He was decked out in a hat and T-shirt covered in slogans in Spanish and English urging people to vote for President Barack Obama.
Mario Salgado, another UFCW Local 431 member and East Moline resident, was in the parade for the third time.
"Being united makes us stronger," he said. "That's what we are out here celebrating today."
Behind Mr. Salgado was a steady stream of union floats. Locals representing millwrights, steelworkers, plumbers and public sector workers all were on hand.
Many who marched in East Moline made their way out to Illiniwek Forest Preserve in Hampton after the parade for the 45th annual Salute to Labor Chicken Fry, organized by the Rock Island County Democratic Party.
Former Illinois Attorney General Neil Hartigan spoke at the event, and local Democratic candidates pressed the flesh and talked politics.
Jeff Liske was wearing his Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 25 T-shirt at the chicken fry and said he wanted people to understand labor's role in the economy.
"Without the working class you can't have enterprise," Mr. Liske said. "It takes one to make the other."