Jubilee Days Parade honors American workers
By Judy Masterson email@example.com September 2, 2013 7:20PM
Recruit Training Command State Flags Unit took part in the Zion Jubilee Days Parade on Labor Day, Sept. 2.| Judy Masterson/Sun-Times Media
What is Labor Day?
Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.
Source: U.S. Department of Labor at www.dol.gov.
Updated: October 4, 2013 6:23AM
For two long years after a job layoff, Michelle Ballard, 37, looked for work and found none. With no college degree and two kids to support, she struggled to stay positive.
Then in March, she was hired for a human resource position at Motorola Mobility in Libertyville.
“I’ve never had a better job, or a better boss,” Ballard said. “It’s a wonderful place to work.”
One of perhaps 10,000 or more spectators along the Zion Jubilee Days Parade route on Monday, Sept. 2, Ballard, of Waukegan, was able to relax and enjoy her son and daughter — children she can now support — on what was also Labor Day, the national day of tribute to working Americans who help drive the economy.
The raucous, 100-plus unit parade is a highlight of Jubliee Days, now in its 65th year, which celebrates the town’s heritage and “God’s blessings.” But while it’s billed as the largest Labor Day parade in the state, actual union representation has been in short supply in recent years, and this year, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 150 — and its retirees — was the only private sector union represented, though Zion-area police, fire and public works departments were out in force, evidence of the still-robust health of public sector unions in Illinois.
Don Carlson, business manager for the Libertyville-based IBEW local, cited an economy struggling to recover and blamed a loss of good jobs and stagnating wages.
“This past summer there has been a general improvement in the overall economy, which has helped us, but we’re still manifesting about 28 to 30 percent unemployment,” said Carlson.
“Productivity has increased 85 percent in this country since 1980, but we’re earning less.”
Michael Hankins, 23, who grew up in Beach Park, and who watched the parade with his wife Ashley, 21, and two young children, joined the Army three years ago after he was laid off from a job in an electronics warehouse. He enlisted when he could’nt find full-time work, he said.
“It’s stable, and the benefits are good,” Hankins said.
Other workers along the parade route included appliance installer Will Alcozer of Zion, who lost a job with the chain store ABT to the recession but was picked up by Grand Appliance.
“I’m making less but I have half the stress,” Alcozer said. “I’m grateful to be working.”
Ray Feuerschwenzer of Zion, 53, bags groceries and returns shopping carts for a local grocer, and Rita Yancey Johnson supplements her family’s income with part-time work with preschoolers and seniors at the Zion Park District.
“I use my money for the kids, so we don’t take away from the house money,” she said.
IBEW Local 150 President Bill Trevino, who led his union’s parade unit, acknowledged the decline of organized labor — overall union membership in 2012 accounted for just 11.3 percent of the workforce.
“The American worker has been in a terrible pickle for a long time now because of the economic policies this country has pursued,” Trevino said. “Corporate profits have soared while our wages have stagnated or gone down for the last 15 years or longer. We need to stand together and demand our piece of the pie as American workers.
“People are finally waking up,” Trevino said, “to the fact that policies that help the American worker, help America in general.”