This year the trade unions, as represented by the MALC, did not hold it's annual Laborfest event down on the shores of Lake Michigan. Their reasons were many but came down to a couple main points:
- they had no funds available
- Harley Davidson Motorcycles was hosting it's 110th Anniversary Celebration and had reserved the Summerfest Grounds through Monday
However, Milwaukee's workers were not willing to forego their holiday and a new coalition was formed calling itself We Are Milwaukee and set up an event which took place in downtown Milwaukee. In fact the event took place in Zeidler Union Square Park which had in the past been the staging area for Laborfest's parade. We Are Milwaukee bills itself as a "progressive political organization working for progressive change."
Workers paraded through town this year but unlike in years past there were two parades. One started on the Near South Side and the other on the Near North Side and the converged on the park. There were a number of booths set up on a wide range of topics of interest to workers including a petition drive to raise the minimum wage in Milwaukee County to be a "living wage" and was specifically, though not exclusively, fast food workers; the Milwaukee Democratic Party; LCLAA; End Gun Violence; and more. There was free food and drink offered including Sprecher Root Beer, mass market beer [probably Miller but not sure], hot dogs, brats and a dish they were calling Booya which most people were calling a jambalaya but that looked more like a bouillabaisse.
No official count on attendance but there appeared to be several hundred or more workers in the park at any given time. People joined the party continually throughout the afternoon and took their leave as well. Prior to the start of the event Sheriff Clark had four or five squad cars and at least two paddy wagons in the park. While in years past there had been a police presence this is the first time seeing the Sheriff's department present and in such large numbers. The police had generally stayed to the perimeter and watch the event and help people lost or in need of other assistance. In contrast the Sheriff's Department vehicles were in the park. They did withdraw before the parades arrived but it makes you wonder what they thought was going to happen.
The Milwaukee GMB's membership was there as were the recently commissioned new banner [displayed below with several new members of the GMB]. It was a good opportunity to network and make workers know that they had options when it came to workplace representatation and support. All in all it appeared that all was had by a good time. And in these days of constant War on Terror and terrifying events that's something to be cherrished and nurtured.