Workers to hold Labor Day celebrations across state

Aug 29, 2019

Union members and working people will gather for food, music, games and inspirational speakers at Labor Day events in Brewer, Winslow, Lewiston and Portland, organized by Maine’s four Central Labor councils of the AFL-CIO for Sunday, Sept. 1, and Monday, Sept. 2.

“For over 130 years, Mainers have celebrated Labor Day as a day to reflect on the struggles of working people and to honor those who have sacrificed for the cause of workers’ rights,” Cynthia Phinney, president of the Maine AFL-CIO said in a press release.

“Like our ancestors so many years ago, we also face many of the same challenges, from staggering income equality and corporate monopolies to anti-worker laws that prevent working people from exercising the basic right to organize and bargain for a fair share of the wealth they create," she said. "This Labor Day we pledge to continue the fight for dignity and a fair shake for all working people.”

The legendary Knights of Labor were the first Maine workers to celebrate Labor Day on Aug. 31, 1886, when over 3,000 people gathered at Peaks Island for a day of rest and recreation. It was a time of serious labor unrest following the Great Railroad Strike of 1877, the Haymarket Riot of 1886 and at least 21 strikes in Maine that year alone. Maine became the ninth state to legally recognize Labor Day in 1891 as workers fought for the eight-hour day, the secret ballot, the citizen initiative and an end to anti-union conspiracy laws.

The 2019 celebrations come at a time when public support for unions is at at a record high and a record number of workers have been going out on strike for better pay, working conditions and more funding for education.

“Here in Maine, we have seen this enthusiasm for unions first hand with a slew of recent organizing victories at Preble Street, Calais Regional Hospital, Kennebec Valley CAP, Baxter Academy and others,” Phinney said in the press release.

“In 2019, not only must we defeat attempts to weaken workers’ rights, dismantle union apprenticeship programs and ram through damaging trade policies, but we also must continue pro-worker campaigns for Medicare for All, a higher minimum wage, humane immigration reform and the right to organize.”

Keynote speaker at the four Labor Day events will be labor organizer José La Luz, who is most known for leading a successful grassroots campaign to achieve collective bargaining rights for over 120,000 public employees in Puerto Rico in 1998. In recent years, La Luz has been campaigning for Medicare for All.

Following is a list of this year’s Labor Day day events:

Sunday, Sept. 1

Central Maine Labor Council’s Labor Day Barbecue, 11:30 a.m. - 2 p.m., Fort Halifax, US Route 201, Winslow, free and open to the public.

Monday, Sept. 2

Southern Maine Labor Council Labor Day Breakfast, 8-10 a.m. (doors open at 7 a.m.), Irish Heritage Center, 34 Gray St., Portland, with a short march at the end.

Western Maine Labor Council Labor Day Barbecue, 1 - 3:30 p.m., IBEW 567 Hall, 238 Goddard Road, Lewiston, free and open to the public.

Eastern Maine Labor Council Labor Day Celebration 4:30 - 7 p.m., Solidarity Center, 20 Ivers St., Brewer, open to the public.

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