More Politicians Appearing at Labor Day Events in an Election Year

By Dave Franzman, KCRG-TV9

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa- For politicians courting union support, Labor Day usually means scheduling an appearance at an organized labor parade or a picnic. And that’s especially true in election year.

And several people running for statewide or national office took part in the annual Hawkeye Labor Council Labor Day picnic at Hawkeye Downs Monday.

Labor Day traditionally marks the start of the home stretch in an election year. And union leaders say rank and file members are paying more attention to politics for that very reason this Labor Day as well.

You didn’t necessarily have to hold political office to volunteer to cook or serve for the expected 1,500 to 2,000 members attending the Hawkeye Labor Council picnic. But it might have seemed that way with members of the Cedar Rapids City Council, Linn County Board of Supervisors and state representatives and senators sharing volunteer duties.

Todd Taylor, a Democrat representative from Cedar Rapids, said compared to a some campaign events, the Labor Day picnics are a lot of fun for politicians.

“This is not like a fundraiser or anything like that — this is a meet and greet. And it works out really well that way,” Taylor said.

Union members have come to expect the low key contacts with local politicians at the Labor Day events. But in election years, it’s also the chance to get more one-on-one time with candidates than is possible at regular political rallies or speeches.

Democrat Gubernatorial candidate Jack Hatch wandered the grounds for a time over the noon hour shaking hands and asking questions of people cooking the hot dogs and brats for union members.

Hatch said he planned to hit a number of similar events around Iowa and appreciated the feedback politicians get at something like this.

“It’s much more relaxing, I’m here meeting them as opposed to them going to a special event to meet us. So this is more relaxing,” Hatch said.

Union members are used to having local politicians at every Labor Day event. But several said you tend to pay more attention to the process when you go to the polls in little more than two months.

Bill Hanes, a member of IBEW Local 405 said “it is a more personal connection and this is the place to do it. So it is important and I do think the membership pays attention to that. That’s why they’re here.”

Labor Day was created as a holiday 120 years ago to honor the contributions or working men and women. Some union members say it’s probably a safe bet that politics and politicians were involved almost from the very beginning.

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