Hot dogs, politics and workers’ welfare on menu at Duluth Labor Day picnicYou had your hot dogs, corn-on-the-cob and watermelon. You had political stickers decorating sweat shirts and denim jackets. And you had plenty of politicians taking to the stage at the annual Labor Day picnic in Duluth.
By: Candace Renalls, Duluth News Tribune
You had your hot dogs, corn-on-the-cob and watermelon. You had political stickers decorating sweat shirts and denim jackets. And you had plenty of politicians taking to the stage at the annual Labor Day picnic in Duluth.
Despite chilling, gusty winds, Duluth AFL-CIO Central Labor Body’s 119th Labor Day Picnic drew hundreds to Bayfront Festival Park on Monday.
Among the political notables shivering on stage as the sun gave way to clouds were gubenatorial candidate Mark Dayton and Minnesota senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken. Get out and knock on doors, Franken encouraged the crowd. Talk to people in supermarkets to get Democrats elected, he said.
“Many of you have families,” Franken said. “Ignore them, at least until after the election. Unless there’s little kids. I guess they need care.”
Then, with a smile erupting, he said, “Just kidding.”
Besides a healthy dose of humor, there was talk of the benefits of stimulus money, the importance of saving Social Security and making education a priority again in Minnesota. A year ago, the country remained in the grip of recession. With unemployment still high and a rocky recovery, are things any better for labor today?
Bruce Akerstron of Proctor, a Teamster since 1969 and a truck driver for 38 years, has seen freight hauling considerably down since the recession began in late 2007.
When construction is down, his job hauling commercial freight suffers. But lately, work is picking up.
“We’re doing a little better, but it’s still not what it should be,” he said. “We’re not hauling anywhere what we should be since the recession started.”
For the last 1½ years, Patrick Daly of Duluth has gone to Labor Ready in West Duluth in the mornings looking for temporary work. He didn’t always find it. But that has changed in the last six months with more general building maintenance jobs.
“There’s more work,” said Daly, whose goal is to get a job as a forklift operator. “When I go, I’m pretty guaranteed work.”
Jane Rohlf, who works for St. Louis County Social Services, knows more people now who are out of work than a year ago. She sees the community losing more young people than ever because of lack of opportunities in the Twin Ports.
“We need something to keep Duluth young,” she said. “The young are our future.”
She thinks people everywhere are still hurting.
“People are cutting back, staying home more, doing vacations in the state,” she said. But she sees that trend of people staying in Minnesota as also good for local economies.
Akerstron, Daly and Rohlf were all hopeful for the future.
“I’m always hopeful that people will realize that Duluth is a good place to start a business,” Rohlf said. “We have a beautiful city. We just need to promote it.”