MANSFIELD — Justin and Misty Grove stood in the shadow of the carrousel. The smell of hot dogs wafted from a grill towards the dozens of people waiting in line.
The Grove’s 3- and 4-year-old daughters stood between them, wearing matching pink dresses and strappy white sandals. One proudly showed off the bag of candy she filled up during the parade.
The Mid-Ohio Area Central Labor Council hosted a free Labor Day celebration Monday, complete with a parade and free rides at the Richland Carrousel. Families also enjoyed complimentary hot dogs, popcorn and cotton candy.
Misty said the festival has become a beloved tradition.
“It’s wonderful that they pay for everything for the community and allow us all to come out and enjoy,” she said.
“(The girls) loved all the horns from the trucks. They had a good time.”
Norm Shoemaker is president of the Mid-Ohio Area Central Labor Council and a member of United Steelworkers Local 3057. He said all of the area’s local unions chipped in to make the festival a success.
“It’s their day. It’s the working men and women’s day,” he said. “Most of the local unions will have a party after this too, for our members.”
“That’s what it’s about, being with your family and enjoying the day.”
Labor Day became a federal holiday in 1894, but labor activists and individual states celebrated it decades earlier. New York was the first state to introduce a bill, but Oregon became the first state to enact Labor Day legislation in 1887.
Union leaders held the first Labor Day parade on Sept. 5, 1882.
For Shoemaker, Labor Day is much more than a Monday off. It’s a day to remember the history of American labor and the part unions have played.
“Vacations, holidays, the 40-hour workweek that most people enjoy, healthcare, FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act), it just goes on and on — all these things was brought on by labor, by unions that fought to get those things for the working men and women,” Shoemaker said.
“That’s what unions are all about, to make things better for working families and workers.”
Jessica Vernon, assistant to the president of the Ohio AFL-CIO, said celebrations like Mansfield’s are evidence that local laborers play an important role in their communities.
“One thing that labor unions do is always give back,” she said. “This is a day to celebrate the contributions of not just union members, but all workers.”
Shoemaker said there are about 40,000 union workers in the Mid-Ohio Area Central Labor Council’s seven-county region.
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