Pushing for immigration reform and improved minimum wages and strengthening the middle class are part of organized labor's next steps, said labor leaders and politicians at Monday's annual Labor Day celebration breakfast.
More than 300 people met up for the free pancake breakfast and union pep rally at the Carpenters' Labor Center on Corby Avenue. The event is annually sponsored by the North Bay Labor Council and the AFL-CIO.
As well as politicians and labor organizers, Monday's crowd included a wide range of union workers, including teachers, nurses, construction workers, hotel employees and county prosecutors.
For Alicia Sanchez, it was a celebration of another year of union efforts to better the lives of workers.
"The wonderful thing about it is it brings together so many people....with the same mind, same heart, same concerns," said Sanchez, a retired longtime local union organizer. "It's a day of rejoicing."
The event featured about a dozen speakers — labor leaders and politicians who rallied the crowd with pledges of support and requests of support.
While last year's event included politician's warning of the ongoing attack on unions, this year the talk was more on the improving economy and improving times ahead for workers, many of whom have seen slips in pay and benefits in recent years.
"We are coming out of the recession... We have to push forward with middle-class jobs in Sonoma County," Sonoma County Supervisor Mike McGuire told the crowd.
Possible positive labor news included a promising jump in local membership in the next year with the opening of the Graton Rancheria casino in Rohnert Park, said Wei-Ling Huber, president of Unite Here local 2850.
Under an arrangement between the tribe and the city, the union will begin talking to about 2,000 casino employees. The union represents service employees, including hotel, food service and casino workers.
"It is going to be a huge shot in the arm for the local economy," said Marty Bennett, a research and policy analyst for the union, called Unite Here, and a longtime leader of the Sonoma County Living Wage Coalition.
Workers also were encouraged to contact Republican party leaders to pass immigration reform legislation.
Other current issues facing labor include the need for a higher minimum wage, said Bennett.
John, an operating engineers union member who declined to give his last name, said he was glad to hear the positive vibes and that he feels them, too. But he's just back to work after a lengthy layoff, and feared the future if building construction doesn't pick up at a faster pace.
"I'd like to think it's more positive. It hasn't been looking so good," he said.
Teamsters union member and Sonoma County prosecutor Chris Honigsberg came for pancakes with his two-year-old daughter, Nayeli, and a chance to be part of the event.
"It's just about being here and supporting labor in general," said Honigsberg.
You can reach Staff Writer Randi Rossmann at 521-5412 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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