(ITHACA) Over 400 community members gathered today to enjoy 30th annual free Labor Day picnic at Stewart Park in Ithaca today. The event was sponsored by the Midstate Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO, and the Tompkins County Workers’ Center. Workers and families were joined by faith and community leaders to honor Labor Day, to celebrate solidarity and to recognize the contributions workers make to our community every day.
The theme of this year’s picnic was “Workers of the Community Unite!” The theme of united workers was reflected in the Annual Awards which were given to both union and non-union workers for their courage, activism, and solidarity in fighting for workers rights.
Midstate Labor Council President Tom Sieling said “We celebrate Labor Day to honor all workers and because we believe all workers deserve respect, a living wage, a safe place to work, and the right to organize and have a voice on the job.”
Pete Meyers, Director of the Tompkins County Workers’ Center said, “This past year has been the most exciting one in the history of the Workers’ Center as we saw workers coming through our Workers Rights Hotline successfully organize two unions as a way to address their workplace grievances. We saw two workers from a County-contracted agency take amazing leadership to ensure that County-contracted workers are paid a Living Wage! We are very excited about the future prospects of organized labor joining together with those workers that are not organized and thereby creating a new labor movement!”
The annual awards are a highlight of the Labor Day Picnic.
The “Friend of Labor” Award, presented to a member of the community who has spoken out publicly or taken action in support of working people, was given to Leni Hochman for her dedication to the cause of making a living wage a reality for all workers in Tompkins County. Chief Financial Officer for Alternatives Federal Credit Union, Hochman founded, over 20 years ago, the Alternatives’ Livable Wage study. This study has become the basis of the Workers’ Center’s Living Wage Employer Certification Program.
The Mother Jones and Joe Hill awards are presented to people for their activism, organizing, and solidarity with other workers, often at risk to themselves.
This year, the Joe Hill Award was presented to Stanley McPherson and Milton Webb, two workers for ReCommunity Recycling—a County-contractor–for their efforts toward gaining a living wage for all Tompkins County sub-contracted workers.
The Mother Jones Award was presented to Josh Ganger, Gayle Alderman, and all the members of IUPAT (Painters union) DC 4 Local 11 who successfully organized a union at the local nonprofit agency, Tompkins Community Action, for their courage and perseverance in working to organize.
The Goat of Labor is given to an especially egregious offender of workers’ rights and/or the value of labor to our common good. This year’s awardees were Walmart and GAP for their lack of willingness to mandate safe and healthy workplaces in their apparel manufacturer’s workplaces, especially in Bangladesh where a factory fire took the lives of over 1,100 people in early May 2013.