LIMA — Mother Nature briefly tried to rain on Lima’s parade, literally, but after a brief shower, Lima’s Labor Day Parade started on schedule at North Main Street and Robb Avenue, making its way to Town Square.
Since its revival in 1982, the Labor Day Parade has traditionally marked the end of Lima’s parade season, including such events as the Irish Parade, the Memorial Day Parade and the Allen County Fair Parade. Despite the short rainfall, area unions and organizations were determined to march as part of this celebration of the labor movement.
“Rain or shine, we walk,” John Foust of the Carpenters Local 372 said. “It’s an honor to participate in the parade. The unions are an integral part of the labor movement, and it’s good to showcase what we’ve got.”
This year, organizers honored Dave Rabe by appointing him Grand Marshal of Monday’s parade. Rabe had previously served as the chairman of the Allied Labor Council, helping to organize several previous Labor Day parades in Lima.
“It’s an honor to represent the labor in this community,” Rabe said. “It’s a great community with a great workforce.”
For Rabe, this holiday is more than just another day for a parade or the unofficial end to summer
“It’s really about the social and economic development in communities,” he said. “A lot of people not only go to work every day, but they also come home and do stuff for the community, and this day is a day to say thank you.”
Several organizations and veterans groups also took part in Monday’s parade, including representatives from area schools. As Lima school board member Catherine Kouns Born noted, organized labor is and important part of public education.
“We have teachers and administrators who represent a couple of different bargaining units here,” she said. “We have a pretty good relationship with them, knowing that we’re all in this together.”
As various unions marched and distributed candy, lifting the spirits of the spectators lining North Main Street, they also hoped to raise awareness of what the labor movement means, both locally and nationally.
“With the parade, it shows what kind of a driving force we have, as well as our commitment to excellence that we strive to maintain,” Foust said. “Quality of life is very important, ensuring that people are able to keep what they have.”
Jeff Kranz, president of the West Central Ohio AFL-CIO, argued that organized labor is still needed to ensure that American workers can make a good living, such as by advocating a raise in the national minimum wage, universal sick days and improving workplace fairness.
“It’s time to create good public policy that will raise wages and restore faith in the American dream,” he said. “Labor calls on elected public officials to address the challenges of working people and stand by our side so we can rebuild an economy that works for all.”
While issues of minimum wage increases remain a point of contention for lawmakers and lobbyists, today’s parade was focused on celebrating both orgainized labor and the communities in which they live and work.
“What a thrill it is to come down Main Street and see all those people,” Rabe said. “The parade of businesses and manufacturers, and the time and effort they have put into their floats, makes it a great day to come out and celebrate Lima.”