Unions celebrate Labor Day in Tampa

09/02/08 Mitch E. Perry
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Yesterday was Labor Day, and in Tampa, thousands celebrated the holiday honoring the American worker by attending a barbecue at the Florida Fairgrounds.

The event was put on by a coalition of local labor groups. It drew the attention of a vast array of local public officials as well as a few candidates vying for office this November.

In addition to the hot dogs, chicken and pork 'n beans, there were carnival rides, games and a car and motorcycle show that drew lots of families to the event. There were also around a dozen booths populated by various unions.

Seana Fulco is with IBEW local 824, but she was staffing a booth sponsored by the AFL-CIO. There, she was helping people register to vote in this fall’s election.

Richard Sparrow is secretary-treasurer of the American Federation of Musicians, Local 427721, representing 300 members. His union helps local orchestras in contact negotiations as well as providing assistance with pensions and instrument insurance. Sparrow said many musicians don’t want to be organized because they consider themselves artists.

Membership, on a decline for 40 years, saw an increase last year, with unions representing 12.1 percent of the work population.

And unions are excited this year about getting Barack Obama elected. In April, Obama told a federation of unions that it’s time the country had a president who didn’t choke when saying the word union. And he said that unions would have influence that they don’t have now if he’s elected.

Ed Chambers is with the United Food & Commercial Workers Union and is president of the Local 1625 in Lakeland. He applauds Obama’s support of the United Free Choice Act.

In the Democratic primaries, Obama lost to Hillary Clinton in regions considered "working-class," such as Pensylvania and Ohio. Some of that resistance has been attributed to his race.

Tom Snover, with the United Auto Workers, agrees that Obama has not been embraced by all parts of the Democratic Party.

Obama appeared at two Labor related events in Michigan yesterday – a critical battleground state that has traditionally voted Democratic, but where polls say it’s up for grabs this year.

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