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Amid strikes, union members gather for Labor Day picnic

The picket lines in Longview may have been empty on Monday, but many union members still gathered together on Labor Day for the annual picnic held by the Cowlitz-Wahkiakum Central Labor Council.

Members of area unions, including the three educators’ unions currently on strike, were joined by their families, local politicians and community members at Tam O’Shanter Park in Kelso on Monday afternoon.

Shawn Nyman, labor council president, said Labor Day and the picnic are very timely this year because of local and national labor issues.

The picnic was moved to Kelso from its past location in Castle Rock. Nyman said she was pleased with the turnout of over 400 people, which doubled last year’s attendance. People packed picnic tables while children ran around the nearby playground. Candidates for local offices manned the grill. The giant croquet tournament of past picnics was postponed this year, but will be back in 2019, Nyman said.

Nyman said the event gives workers and their families a chance to relax and get a chance to know each other. But the picnic is about more than just an extra day off.

“It’s about collective union solidarity,” Nyman said.

Signs spreading that message were posted around the picnic area. Nyman led the group in singing the chorus of union anthem “Solidarity Forever.”

Karen Hart, president of Service Employees International Union 925, spoke briefly at the picnic. She said working people have to fight hard for everything right now.

“Everyone deserves to make a decent living,” Hart said. “That’s what Labor Day is all about, is recognizing that.”

Frank Harju, 62, said he’s been a member of one union or another since 1970. He said the union movement is not as big as it used to be and needs to be. But the picnic is a good way for union members to exchange ideas, Harju said.

“It’s a nice way to show support, but it should be shown every day,” Harju said.

Many people wore red or purple to show membership or support for the educators’ unions. Lisa Roberts was one of them. Roberts said she works for the Longview School District and has been a union member for 13 years. This is the first Labor Day picnic she’s been to in many years, she said.

“The picnic opened my eyes to the unity and how important it is to stand up for ourselves as a group,” Roberts said.


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