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Politicians slam Trump, praise workers at annual Labor Day event in Santa Rosa

Politicians and labor advocates at a Labor Day event in Santa Rosa hailed workers who have frequently exposed themselves to illness during the coronavirus pandemic while exhorting followers to help defeat President Donald Trump in November.

The coronavirus pandemic and its attendant rules discouraging crowds prompted the North Bay Labor Council to reshuffle its annual celebration of working families, which typically involves a pancake breakfast on Labor Day where attendees sit elbow to elbow while politicians shake any hand within reach.

Instead, a small group of labor advocates and politicians gathered Monday morning at the Teamsters hall on Neotomas Avenue in southeast Santa Rosa, with some speaking in person and others calling in or sending prepared video messages.

“This isn’t the Labor Day that we typically enjoy ... but we’re going to carry on the tradition,” said Jack Buckhorn, executive director of the North Bay Labor Council, in remarks that were carried via Facebook, Zoom and KSRO.

No pancakes could be found, but a line of local politicians and candidates took orders and provided bacon or veggie breakfast burritos and bottles of orange juice to supporters in vehicles as part of a makeshift drive-thru.

“I don’t think there’s ever been a time when labor has been more needed or more necessary in the United States than right now,” Buckhorn added.

The speakers, a mix of North Bay politicians and candidates at the federal, state and local levels, took turns praising workers and bashing Trump, whom U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson called a “madman” who needed to be replaced by former Vice President Joe Biden in the Nov. 3 election.

“It’s a call to arms,” Thompson said. “We need to get everybody out there.”

Some of Monday’s speechifying was more personal than partisan, though. This was exemplified by Ever Flores, a candidate for trustee on the Santa Rosa City School Board who has served as president of the Healdsburg Area Teachers Association. Flores credited the union jobs secured by his aunt and father as critical for his ability to make a life in Sonoma County after immigrating from El Salvador in the 1980s.

“Without the labor movement, many people like me would not have the chance to come to a country like this and have the opportunities we have been given,” Flores said.

Labor Day became a U.S. holiday in 1894 and is meant as a time to pay tribute to American workers. The holiday also is an important day of solidarity for organized labor — which remains a force in the fight for better working conditions despite decades of declining union membership — and provides a platform for Democrats, who are more closely aligned with organized labor than Republicans.

Speakers praised grocery store workers, nurses, garbage collectors and other frontline workers who cannot properly do their jobs remotely. This also includes firefighters, many of whom have been busy the past few weeks fighting the Walbridge fire in northwest Sonoma County.

The challenges of the Walbridge fire impelled local union members to show how they cared for each other, said Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, who acknowledged that she didn’t grow up in a union family or belong to a union herself.

“What I see is that unions are family, and that is exactly what I had an opportunity to witness over the past three weeks: Sonoma County coming together in yet another tragedy, as one family,” Hopkins said. “People opening their doors, and in some cases, this was actually union members opening their doors for another union member who was displaced by the Walbridge fire.”

You can reach Staff Writer Will Schmitt at 707-521-5207 or will.schmitt@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @wsreports.

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