Food, music, solidarity draw hundreds to Brewer labor event

Posted July 05, 2009, at 8:16 p.m.

BREWER, Maine — The lamb and pig roasts, chili, hamburgers and hot dogs seemed to stay dry. So did the performers. And for several hundred people who gathered Saturday evening at the Solidarity Center on Ivers Street, that was enough to make for a good evening.

Pro-labor group Food AND Medicine held its ninth annual Fourth of July Solidarity Celebration, which was marred only by steady rain that kept the crowd huddled under tents and umbrellas.

Event organizer and Food AND Medicine intern Mario Moretto said organizers were expecting up to 400 people Saturday night. Proceeds from the event were to benefit laid-off workers and the Eastern Maine Labor Council.

Some Food AND Medicine members marched Saturday morning in the Greater Bangor Kiwanis Club Fourth of July parade.

Taking part in Independence Day activities is important for the group, said Moretto, a Lamoine native who will be a senior this fall at the University of Maine.

“We kind of feel like the tenets of democracy set forth by the Founding Fathers who declared independence are still relevant today in workplaces all over Maine and the country,” he said. “The ideas of democracy and freedom from tyranny are important in the workplace. As a labor organization, we see that as the role of organ-ized labor.”

Musical performers Slaid Cleaves, a North Berwick native who now lives in Texas, and western Massachusetts residents Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion played and sang on a stage under a tent and tarps. Some spectators stood with umbrellas in front of the stage, while others sat farther back under tents.

“You’re wonderful to stay out here and listen to more music,” said Guthrie, who is the daughter and granddaughter of folk music legends Arlo Guthrie and Woody Guthrie, respectively, referring to the rainy weather.

U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, who spoke to the group before the husband-and-wife team of Guthrie and Irion went onstage, has attended all nine solidarity celebrations.

“The people who come here, I worked with several of them at Great Northern [Paper Co.],” Michaud said inside the Solidarity Center. “It’s always good to come here because people aren’t afraid to tell you what’s on their mind. They’re not bashful at telling you what they think.”

Food AND Medicine has been advocating for the Employee Free Choice Act, which is an attempt to make it easier for employees to form or join unions, and a single-payer health insurance plan, which would create a national Medicare-style health insurance system for all Americans.

jbloch@bangordailynews.net

990-8287

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