Union members were in a spirited mood as they sat down Monday for pancakes and sausage on Labor Day at the Fresno Fairgrounds.
They had reason for celebration — the June defeat of Measure G to outsource garbage collection in Fresno remained fresh on many minds, and on many backs of people wearing "No on G" T-shirts.
The outsourcing fight "ignited the passions in people and showed if we work together that we can be successful," said Randy Ghan, executive secretary-treasurer of the Fresno-Madera-Tulare-Kings Central Labor Council.
Proposition 30 approved by voters in November to put tax hikes on the wealthy, also gave rise to the upbeat mood at the annual breakfast sponsored by the Labor Council. Ghan estimated between 600 and 700 people in attendance, about the same as last year.
Union members and their families came with appetites. By 8:30 a.m., almost half of the 30 gallons of pancake batter was gone. This year's breakfast had a family focus, Ghan said. "We're trying make it fun for families and heighten the awareness about the larger union family."
Don Savory, a member of the Iron Workers Union Local 155, said there's reason to celebrate with fellow union members on Labor Day. "We're celebrating what we started in this country," he said. "This is what made the middle class in this country — and we need to get back to that."
But despite the positivity at the breakfast, union members said struggles for good-paying jobs remain.
Last week's strike by fast-food workers in 50 cities weighed on many minds, said Jeff Fowler, president of the Service Employees International Union in Fresno. "Labor is under attack nationwide. Our wages are still a huge concern and are not keeping up with inflation."
A $7.25-an-hour fast-food job was not intended to support a family, but that's too often the case today, said Dave Celaya, president of the United Steel Workers Local 474. Celaya said decent-paying manufacturing jobs need to return to the United States.
The annual Labor Day breakfast is a chance for politicians to mingle with labor and several were present, including state Assembly Member Henry T. Perea, D-Fresno. Perea said the minimum wage needs to be increased, but it has to be done carefully or "increasing the cost on business could result in fewer jobs," he said.
Ghan said the Labor Council is assessing the best approach to an increase in the minimum wage.
Estella Kessler, a member of the California School Employees Association, said a lot of full-time jobs have been cut to part-time. Getting people back to work has to be a priority, she said. "We've got to keep on fighting to get people working and with a working salary and health benefits."
Daniel Cisneros, 25, is unemployed and considering going back to school. He's not a union member but was invited to Monday's breakfast. "At the end of the day, that's all we want — good paying jobs," he said.
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