Sep 2, 2009

Celebrate Labor Day weekend at the state’s only labor museum

Monroe is the place to be this Labor Day weekend, and the highlight of the day is the dedication of the new neon sign at the Monroe County Labor History Museum, in downtown Monroe on Saturday, the only labor museum in the state.

The museum in the historic Phillip Murray Building at 41 W. Front St. - named in honor of Philip Murray, the first president of the United Steelworkers of America - is dedicated to Michigan’s long and rich history of organized labor. Organized labor brought us the weekend, the 40 hour week, overtime pay, workplace safety standards, health insurance, unemployment insurance, worker’s compensation and decent wages.

Lt. Gov. John Cherry will be the keynote speaker at 5 p.m., but before that there will be tours, an cream social and a moonwalk beginning at noon.

The Monroe County Council CIO Social and Welfare Association has been working on the restoration and improvement of the only labor museum in the state since 2001, and in February of 2007 it opened for business. There have been monetary donations - and they certainly can use more, but most of the work was done by the donated labor of union skilled tradesmen. It has been a work in progress, and a labor of love.

Bill Conner, the president of the Monroe County Council CIO Social and Welfare Association and the museum curator, said one of the biggest missions of the museum will be to educate children on the role labor has played in creating the middle class and improving the lot of workers; something that has been taken for granted.

But that’s not all of the celebrations going on in in Monroe on Saturday to celebrate the huge contribution of organized labor. A 5-mile Labor Day walk from Sterling State Park to St. Mary's Park will step off at 10 a.m.

The downtown barbecue will begin around noon, and downtown restaurants will set up in tents so festival-goers can enjoy outdoor dining. Music will also start at noon on a stage at E. Front and Washington and go into the night. Also throughout the day, local artists will set up booths to sell their creations and nonprofit agencies will be on hand to tell visitors about their services. There will be face-painting and other activities.

Labor Day is, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, 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. The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union. On June 28 1894 Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.

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