After having no celebration last year due to lack of interest, this year’s Labour Day festivities were a hit, with about 400 people coming out to Lions Park here Monday afternoon.
“We’re ecstatic,” said Dale Gustafson, president of the Fort Frances and District Labour Council. “We thought maybe 150, and we ran out of hotdog buns in no time.”
The labour council—along with the donations or helping hands from CEP Locals 306, 324, and 92, OPSEU 735, ETFO, OSSTF, the Fort Frances Volunteer Bureau, Safeway, Fort Frances General Supply, and the Town of Fort Frances—organized this year’s event.
Gustafson noted he wanted to see a bigger event, with children’s games and maybe a tug-of-war, but ended up finding the key to success was to keep it simple.
“There wasn’t one last year. It was hard trying to get people to organize any activities,” he remarked.
“But this time, we just decided just to go out and have a picnic. I was talking with Al Bedard, and we thought about [activities] but it was too late to get it together,” Gustafson added.
But with a corn roast, hotdogs, cupcakes, and soft drinks, families and folks young and old congregated in the sunshine Monday.
“It was definitely a community event. There [were] some people there with no formal union ties,” enthused Gustafson. “We’re very happy with the turnout.
“It’s probably the most we’ve ever had as long as I’ve been involved [about five years].”
He reiterated the celebration could not have happened without teamwork—financial or otherwise.
“Of course, we had volunteers helping out from the unions and federations, but we had others who volunteered either through the Volunteer Bureau or after seeing the article [in last Wednesday’s Times],” remarked Gustafson.
“It was nice we could get help from the town, too. There was some help there we didn’t use, like using roadblocks to block off the road for kids’ activities.
“But as I said, we didn’t have a need for that,” he added.
In the spirit of workers rallying for Labour Day, the district labour council also used the opportunity to donate an undisclosed amount of money to the CUPE 65 workers who have been on strike against the Fort Frances and District Association for Community Living since May 11 to back demands for a wage increase and pension plan.
“There’s been no word so far,” said Gwen Miller, CUPE Local 65 president, referring to when negotiations might resume. But she added the provincial government is expected to make an announcement about funding for wages next week.
“The community is still standing firmly behind us, and the local unions, too. We’re doing fine,” remarked Miller.