BREWER, Maine — After skipping a Labor Day event last year, the Eastern Maine Labor Council and Food AND Medicine held a picnic and fundraiser at their facility on Ivers Street behind St. Teresa Catholic Church.
Nearly 150 people turned out for the event designed to mark the holiday to honor American workers and to raise money for a new roof on the council’s building. Council president Jack McKay said Monday that $25,000 has been raised but another $12,000 is needed so the new roof can be installed this fall.
Scott Cuddy, 39, of Hermon said he came to the event with his wife and two sons “to remember what organized labor has done for this country and what workers have done for this country with their labor and sweat.
“The biggest challenge Maine workers are facing continues to be the economy,” he said in between bites of a hamburger. “Working people have been let down the past couple of years. In the Northeast the economy is growing but it’s not growing fast enough. In Maine we’ve lagged behind.”
Cuddy, an electrician who is treasurer of the labor council, said he was concerned about what the future holds for his boys, aged 4 and 2.
“My concern is that the union movement might not be strong enough to speak up for working people and they won’t have the opportunities I’ve had,” he said.
U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud expressed concern that more trade agreements with foreign countries that end import tariffs would be bad for American workers. He said that government employees in Washington, D.C., should be buy American products.
“I was at the Labor Day parade in Buckfield earlier today with [Oxford County] Sheriff Wayne Gallant,” Michaud, who worked for 22 years in a paper mill, said Monday. “He told me he’d been to a meeting with the FBI and people from the Department of Justice. He pulled out a badge they’d given him and handed it to me. I turned it over and it said, ‘Made in China.’
“We have a lot of work to do to educate people in the procurement departments of the federal government that what they want it to say is: ‘Made in the USA,’” the congressman said.
The first Labor Day holiday was marked on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 1882, in New York City, by the Central Labor Union to celebrate a “workingmen’s holiday,” according to information posted on the U.S. Department of Labor’s website. The idea spread with the growth of labor organizations, and in 1885 Labor Day was celebrated in many industrial centers of the country.
By 1894, 24 states had adopted the holiday in honor of workers, and on June 28 of that year, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in every state, the District of Columbia and the territories, according to the DOL.