SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA)– Monday marked 125 years since Labor Day became a federal holiday in the United States.
The holiday is a day when many union workers celebrate their affiliation, including thousands in Illinois.
Workers from around the state celebrated the annual parade in Springfield Monday morning but before they look ahead, they are thankful for the state’s past with organized labor.
Union workers from every trade marched downtown. Some of these unions date back more than 100 years. Including Springfield’s IBEW 193.
“The pride of it, of not only getting the job done but fighting for all the other working men and women is something that is generation for us. Probably about third or fourth generation for us. Easily from the railroads all the way through,” said IBEW 193 president Mike Patsche II.
The holiday has a rich history with rail work in Illinois. Workers at Pullman Palace Car Company protested low wages and unfair working conditions, leading to railways shutting down and a national holiday declaration that September.
Workers today said they are still fighting but believe unions are on the way up. “The dollar is being spent to go to men and women in labor and construction is way up. Raises are going up, wages are going up, we are increasing the living wage. I think that’s important. I think it’s important for people in this community to better themselves and be apart of the American Dream,” said local 477 business manager Brad Schaive.
Many union workers said it is an exciting time to be a part of their community right now as they look ahead to infrastructure projects funded by the capital bill.
The $45 billion plan to rebuild the state for the first time in 10 years contains construction projects around Illinois that will take place over the next six years. Despite former Governor Bruce Rauner going on record
in the past to dispel rumors about him being against union workers, he did veto a bill that would prevent right to work zones in Illinois.
Earlier this year, Governor J.B. Pritzker signed a law to ban local
governments from creating those zones, ensuring unions have the right to bargain collectively. Moves like this have unions members feeling optimistic.