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Utah’s workers celebrate Labor Day

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MAGNA — Utah's laborers celebrated their annual holiday Monday, taking a day off to celebrate workers and the traditional end of summer.

At Magna-Copper Park, labor unions affiliated with the Utah AFL-CIO held their annual Labor Day picnic and car show, which included food, music and prizes for workers and their families.

"I love it. We get every union involved in it," said Darin Martin, a pipe fitter and union member who attended the picnic with his son, Chance.

Martin said it was his first time attending the picnic and that he had heard about it from his father, a union member for 37 years. Within an hour of arriving, Chance had secured a pair of balloon swords and was pulling his father over to a children's train weaving through the parking lot.

"There's lots of families," Martin said. "We couldn't ask for a better time."

Diane Lewis, co-chairwoman of the Labor Day picnic committee, said the event is in its 12th year and keeps getting bigger. Lewis said the picnic is held to honor Utah's workers through the years and give back to individuals and their families.

The picnic is organized by volunteers and relies heavily on donations, she said. A number groups and vendors also sponsored booths, such as a seat belt simulator by the Utah Highway Patrol, cotton candy from Ben McAdams campaign for Salt Lake County mayor and a fish pond booth from the Peter Cooke gubernatorial campaign.

The picnic also included a classic car show with approximately 400 vehicles, Lewis said.

"It's a great year," she said. "We'll have up to 7,000 (or) 8,000 thousand people."

Rich Kingery, business manager for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, said part of the event was also to commemorate the history of Labor Day and the efforts of labor unions in the past to secure employee benefits, such as minimum wages and eight-hour work days.

"We celebrate it because it was established as a national holiday due to some of the accomplishments of labor unions," Kingery said. "It recognizes the past and what they did to help us have a higher standard of living."

As the country's workforce still deals with the lingering recession and high unemployment, Utah AFL-CIO president Dale Cox said workers in the state are feeling cautious but optimistic.

Cox said the state tends to have more moderate shifts, compared with the extreme rises and falls in employment of other areas.

"It never gets quite as good in Utah, but it never gets quite as bad," he said.

Cox said there's a lot of misinformation regarding labor unions in the political landscape. More than any group, he said, labor unions represent working middle-class Americans and offer a needed balance of power in politics.

With the Labor Day holiday, Cox said he hopes people will remember the work done in the past to secure worker's rights.

"I hope people will remember what today originated as," he said, "a celebration of middle-class working men and women and what they do for this nation day in and day out."

Contributing: John Hollenhorst

E-mail: benwood@desnews.com