The annual Detroit Labor Day parade may have lacked national big-name political names like years past, but there was no shortage in terms of crowd.
Barack Obama, Joe Biden and others have headlined the event in years past. This year the top names were a who’s-who of Democrats running for re-election, with the exception of Gretchen Whitmer who is facing off with Bill Schuette in the gubernatorial race.
“I’m feeling encouraged,” said Whitmer as she worked her way into the crowd as the event prepared to kickoff. “I’m grateful for the men and women of labor in this state. We built the middle class. We’re going to make this a state that you can get ahead in again.”
The annual parade is a reminder of gains made throughout the labor movement — things like pensions, healthcare and child labor laws. However, it’s also a reminder of things the labor movement still fights for.
Congresswoman Debbie Dingell noted that while working the crowd there was a common concern about wages. Senator Debbie Stabenow echoed the concerns.
“Whether it’s pensions or wages, this is about what created the middle class,” said Stabenow. “If we want a middle class we need to respect people’s ability to work hard and succeed.”
As for the workers, it was hard to find an empty spot among the more than an hour-long march — that’s not the time it took to march, that’s the time it took for people to make it to the starting line.
Tim Holton, a worker with Utility Workers Union of America Local 223, said the crowds were the story. Labor Day is a creation of the labor movement to celebrate achievements of American workers, but he said the gathering reminds everyone that there’s still important issues.
“When you have a big turnout that means everyone needs to be together,” said Holton. “We still have a purpose.”
Organizers expected this year’s parade to draw more than 20-thousand people.
Mardy Woods, another union worker, told 7 Action News he was encouraged to see the turnout.
“That shows pride in Detroit,” said Woods. “That’s what that is. We take pride in what we do.”
His union, SEIU Local 1, recently signed a contract to raise wages to $15/hour over the next three years. They were among the most vocal groups near Michigan and Trumbull chanting with leadership rallying the crowd on a bullhorn.
Similar Labor Day parades will be taking place throughout the United States today.