LEWISTON — Hundreds gathered Monday to celebrate American workers and communities standing strong together during the sixth annual Labor Day picnic hosted by the Western Maine Labor Council.
"It's extremely important this year," said Don Berry, president of the Maine AFL-CIO. "We're facing high unemployment this year and it's more the fault of corporations and big businesses and Wall Street that created this depression. We're getting out of it, but it's a much slower process than we'd like to see."
Several hundred people gathered for the event at the union hall of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 567, on Goddard Road where volunteers manned a line of gas grills and fryers turning out hamburgers, sausage and fried turkey for the crowd.
"We all need to be united against America moving to China," said Don Bilodeau, president of the Western Maine Labor Council. "It's getting people mobilized and getting them out to vote for representatives that are going to support their jobs, their health care, their wages, their communities."
The fun-filled family event also provided an opportunity for local workers and union leaders to call for action on creating and keeping American jobs. Congressman Mike Michaud, D-Maine, encouraged voters to closely examine all candidates and determine where they stand on issues important to their lives before heading to the ballot boxes this November.
"It's very important to get working people together and elect people who will represent their interests," Michaud said. "Look at the individual candidates and make sure they support your interests."
Michaud talked at length about the Berry Amendment, which calls on the Department of Defense to purchase food, clothing (including military uniforms), fabrics, stainless steel, and hand or measuring tools from United States producers. He called on the Obama administration to comply with the law and look to American-made producers such as New Balance in Maine as sources for items such as shoes for American soldiers.
Heidy Hebb, 28, of North Bridgton attended the picnic with her family in support of her father, Robert Doughty, who retired last year after 35 years with Laborers International Union Of North America Local 327 of Augusta. She considered the picnic a great way for the families of union workers to learn more about the important role they serve.
"They fought for a decent wage for us," Doughty said of local unions. "They go out and find the work and put us to work. I'm really glad to see all the support of our unions. It's been a very good thing for me."