LEWISTON — The Western Maine Labor Council will host a free public Labor Day barbecue Monday to honor working people in the communities of Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties.

Workers, families, friends and community members are invited to celebrate working people, unions and labor accomplishments and to enjoy an afternoon of food and fun together. The keynote speaker for the event will be Jose La Luz, a longtime labor organizer and strategist who is working to support Medicare for All.

The barbecue will take place from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the IBEW Local 567 Union Hall, 238 Goddard Road in Lewiston, and will include local food and dessert. There will be a magician and children’s entertainment.

The event is free and open to the public, and will take place rain or shine.           

“Collective action is on the rise. Working people are tired of an economy that sends all the gains to the top. This Labor Day, we are taking action to build an economy that works for the many, not just the few,” said Western Maine Labor Council President Linda Deane, a millwright at the ND Paper mill in Rumford.

La Luz is a veteran organizer, campaigner and labor educator with a distinguished career in the American labor movement spanning more than three decades. He will talk about the labor movement’s role in winning a system of universal health care that treats health care as a public good.

La Luz led the grassroots campaign to achieve collective bargaining rights for public workers in Puerto Rico. The enactment of law 45 in 1998 paved the way for one of the largest coordinated organizing campaigns in organized labor’s recent history. More than 120,000 workers were organized and La Luz became the founding executive director of Servidores Publicos Unidos/AFSCME Council 95.

Other local workers speaking at the barbecue will highlight their health care stories and the growing movement to make health care a human right, the value of apprenticeship programs, recent union organizing victories at Preble Street and beyond, and the campaign to win the right to strike in the public sector.

Laura Fortman , commissioner of the Maine Department of Labor, will also speak.

“Labor Day is a time to honor all working people who make our state and our economy run,” Deane said. “It’s also a time to call for an economy that rewards work and not just wealth. Working people are more productive than ever, but those of us doing the work are not seeing the rewards.

“Now more than ever, we need to focus on raising wages, making health care a right for all and giving workers a voice on the job. This Labor Day, the labor movement stands ready to do all we can to improve the lives of working-class Mainers.”      

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