Unions: Labor Day Celebrates Their Past Victories and Hopes for Future Progress
Labor Day honors those who organized for better wages, better benefits, better-trained workers, better working conditions, and better lives whether or not people belonged to unions.
"I support unions; I believe that they're the ones who built the middle class," Mike Gilmore said.
Gilmore, a Democratic candidate for Natrona County Commission was among other politicians at the annual Labor Day picnic hosted by the Ironworkers Local 27.
He wasn't campaigning. Gilmore just wanted to encourage their mission, he said.
"My dad was a union member his whole life; I still support them and will continue to do so," he said.
Craig Thomas, business manager for the Ironworkers, said the picnic expresses gratitude to those who fought for what many Americans take for granted.
"It's kind of a day to say thank you to the people who sacrificed (for) some of the things we've enjoyed as a people, anywhere from public schools to the eight-hour work day," Thomas said.
Organized labor's greatest strength now consists of keeping its members' skills sharp for their careers, he said.
"We believe our middle name is training, as far as unions go," Thomas said. "We are always training or upgrading our membership in order to give our employers the best qualified skilled workforce that they can have."
About 18,000 workers in the Wyoming workforce are unionized, he added.
Besides training, unions have been focusing an eye on the upcoming general election on Nov. 4 and the General Session of the Legislature in January, Thomas said.
"We are looking pretty heavy into the workplace safety issues, worker comp issues," he said. Wyoming has one of the highest workplace fatality rates in the nation.
Gilmore and Republican county commission candidate Steve Schlager said the commission itself cannot create workplace safety policy.
But they're not helpless, either.
"I would love to see our workplace death rate obviously go down over time," Schlager said.
"I think the Legislature is probably going to be the best way to go about that," he said. "I don't know if it would be increased regulation or more statutes."
Gilmore served as representative from House District 59 from 2009-2010. He successfully promoted a bill to give in-state contractors a 5 percent break on their bid process.
If elected to the commission, Gilmore knows contractors with union workers bidding on county projects can compete as well as non-union businesses, he said.
"What I can do for union people is to stand out there and support them," he said.