Teachers, electricians, public servants, firefighters, bus drivers and others paraded from city hall to McNabb Park yesterday for the annual Labour Day March and Picnic, organized by the Ottawa District Labour Council.
For Sean McKenny, president of the ODLC, the parade, picnic and games for kids all serve one purpose: “This is a day to celebrate all the work we’ve done over the past year. Whether somebody belongs to a union or doesn’t, it’s all about working families and working people.”
Labour Day, and union activism, is certainly a family affair for Nelson Ross Laguna, staff representative for the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, who says he started coming to Labour Day events as a kid.
“My dad was a longtime union activist and so every year I would come down with my dad,” he said. “I grew up in a labour household. My dad led two strikes back in his day, so since I was young I’ve been able to learn and be educated about the topic so naturally it made me more and more interested and involved.”
Marchers handed out candy, Frisbees with the logo of the Public Servants Association of Canada, and countless pamphlets. Music blared from vehicle speakers, some traditional labour anthems as well as some Stevie Ray Vaughn, and the parade was led by the Labour Day Dixie Band.
“That’s the longest we’ve ever played When the Saints Go Marching In, in a row,” said Dave Arthur, the band’s leader and trombonist.
Arthur, who plays in several bands, and did a second shift on trombone with rock band Peter and the Wolves at the picnic, said the most unusual feature of his annual Labour Day gig is the marching, and making sure the band doesn’t get too far ahead of the parade.