La Crosse celebrates Labor Day

Workers across the nation are taking time off to celebrate each other’s hard work.

Here in La Crosse, hundreds of people lined the streets for the annual Labor Day Parade on La Crosse’s northside.

The holiday isn’t just another day off of work for many; it’s also a way to remember just how far the workforce has come.

“It’s a good way to celebrate everybody else who has done so much for working conditions and so much for laborers,” parade marshal Carla Easterday said.

“It’s a good thing to show some enthusiasm and respect for people who are working for a living,” La Crosse resident Ken French said.

After the parade, many folks headed over to Copeland Park for LaborFest.

The festival featured food, games and a chance to celebrate the holiday with family and friends.

The U.S. Department of Labor says Labor Day is “dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers.” It says the national holiday was declared in 1894 to highlight the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our country.

Organizers of LaborFest say they want people to celebrate and reflect, but also think about the future.

For some, Labor Day is just a day off work or it signifies the last weekend of summer. For those at LaborFest, it’s a day to celebrate.

“To me it’s a celebration of the middle class and what we do every day,” Neil Kamrowski, president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local Lodge 1030 in Winona, said.

This year, Kamrowski is spending his day off at LaborFest, but he says no matter what he does to enjoy the holiday, it always involves thinking about what makes our country strong.

“It’s the people that are out here doing the jobs that (other) people aren’t willing to do, they’re people that are skilled at their trades, there are people that are not skilled at their trades, but you know what it all takes a lot of work and people willing to work to be able to make this country function the way it does,” Kamrowski said.

Bill Brockmiller, LaborFest organizer and president of the Western Wisconsin AFL-CIO, says Labor Day is a much-deserved day off. He says LaborFest is a chance to celebrate all the hard work we do as Americans and the changes that have been made in the workplace over the past few hundred years.

“Things like 40-hour work weeks, things like worker compensation, unemployment insurance, things like overtime,” Brockmiller said.

Brockmiller said Labor Day should also be a time to think about continuing to make improvements.

“One of the things that we’re thinking about right now is minimum wage. We’ve seen over the last 6-8 years where the minimum wage hasn’t (gone) up, but employers that typically use minimum wage workers whether it’s the restaurant industry and stuff, they’re prices keep going up,” Brockmiller said.

Organizers say even with the rain Monday morning there was a pretty good-sized crowd on hand for LaborFest.

The first Labor Day was actually celebrated on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 1882, in New York — 12 years before Congress made it a national holiday.