Unions celebrate Labor Day

Mirror photo by William Kibler Members of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 57 march by as a young boy shares candy that he’s retrieved from the street after it was tossed by participants in Saturday’s Labor Day parade in Downtown Altoona.

Altoona’s Labor Day parade Saturday was dominated by unions: Its 35 marching units included representatives of locals for steelworkers, ironworkers, carpenters, electricians, plumbers, pipefitters, ce­ment workers, boilermakers, mine­workers, firefighters, government workers and service workers, according to Bob Kutz, president of the Blair-Bedford Central Labor Council.

Labor Day began in the 1880s as a “creation of the labor movement” — the unions — according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s website.

Nevertheless, the department does not specify organized labor in its definition of the holiday, which it calls “a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our country.”

Parade attendee Dwain Force of Bellefonte is not a union man — but he’s definitely a worker: He started after high school with a bridge company, then with his father’s construction firm and now he’s back to working on bridges, with Ryland Con­struction of Lewisberry.

He’s operated equipment, supervised a drywall operation and a commercial store finishing operation and he’s worked with steel and concrete.

He came to the parade because the daughter of his girlfriend, Heather Fleck, of Altoona was marching.

Asked what he thought about himself as an honoree of the occasion, he said, “I never actually thought about having a day.”

Fleck, who works for North Star Services Inc. as a supervisor, likewise said she hadn’t considered herself the subject of a tribute.

Neither, however, found the notion problematic.

“It’s a day to recognize anybody who works,” Fleck said.

James Frantz of Altoona watched the parade from outside Wolf Court, where he lives.

He was wearing a Korean War Veteran hat, having served in the Army for six years during that era.

There are multiple days annually when veterans are recognized — including Veterans Day, Memorial Day, Armed Forces Day, Flag Day and Independence Day.

It’s good to have one day for workers, according to Frantz and his wife, Alice, who both did their share.

James’s laboring career started early and meandered freely: He was a firefighter in the Army, built swimming pools, served as a security guard, operated machinery at Veeder-Root Co. and hauled newspapers to distant locations for the Mirror.

“I was always busy,” he said.

Alice was a boss in a caulking gun factory in Phila­delphia and later worked as a factory cleaner.

People should get “credit” for what they do for a living, James said.

“Yes, yes, yes,” Alice said.