Labor Day parade a show of unity before election
Thousands of union members marched Monday in solidarity with politicians at Detroit's Labor Day parade, just weeks ahead of November's midterm elections.
For the candidates on the ballot, the parade served as a good time to talk with constituents about health care, pensions, trade policy and other issues.
"They have to earn our votes," said Martha Nichols of Detroit, a health care worker and member of the Service Employees International Union (SIEU).
AFL-CIO Metro Detroit President Rick Blocker said 20,000 to 30,000 people marched the route down Michigan Avenue from 14th Street to Lafayette Boulevard; Detroit Police didn't have an estimate for attendance.
Union members in brightly colored T-shirts, many with kids and spouses in tow, marched shoulder to shoulder. Some carried union signs, or boarded floats.
"There’s a new feeling in America right now: We have more union people in Michigan than we did three years ago," Teamsters President James P. Hoffa said shortly the parade kicked off at the corner of Trumbull and Michigan.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer helped lead the parade, along with U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, and other Democrats.
"This is the place people used to come to for opportunity," Whitmer said. "We’re going to make this that Michigan again."
Whitmer, who formerly served in the Michigan House of Representatives and the state Senate, will face Republican Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette in the governor's race on Nov. 6. Schuette spent Labor Day at the Michigan State Fair in Novi, and made campaign stops in Franklin, Romeo, Royal Oak and Holland.
Members of education and health care unions kicked off the parade, followed by auto workers, service workers, mail carriers, pilots, firefighters, police officers, seafarers and other union groups. They were also joined by faith-based organizations and community groups.
Larry Reichle of Sterling Heights, a retired union employee from United Auto Workers Region 1, helped lead a procession of motorcycles driven by UAW members who call themselves the "Solidarity Riders". About 30 were there from UAW Region 1, and another 30 from UAW Region 1A, he said.
"Solidary Riders come from all the different locals — Chrysler, Ford, General Motors," said Reichle. "We have meetings once a month and we go on different rides across the state supporting different community events."
Reichle lives in Macomb County, where support from disillusioned auto workers helped Donald Trump narrowly capture Michigan for the Republicans in 2016. Reichle, who did not vote for Trump, thinks some union members who voted Republican in 2016 are growing more disillusioned.
"What I'm seeing is that his hardcore base will probably stay his hardcore base, but I think a lot more (county residents) are going to be coming in to vote, because of the things that he's done and the character that he has," Reichle said. "I think that some people are starting to really wake up and get upset with that."