Union members celebrate Labor Day amid COVID-19 while looking to the future

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Celebrating Labor Day Monday, Sept. 6, took on new meaning for some workers in Milwaukee.

IBEW and UA union and family members celebrated in a different way than usual due to COVID-19, with some new union members as well.

Monday is the first Labor Day since the workers at Colectivo Coffee voted to unionize.

Union members gathered at International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 494 for an impromptu celebration of Labor Day as their typical celebration at Summerfest grounds couldn't happen, but it took on a new meaning for some who came out.

“Labor Day was started long, long, long ago and it wasn't started to have parades or a day off. What it was started for was really workers' protections,” said Dan Bukiewicz, Milwaukee Buildings and Construction Trades Council president, one of many out at the event.

He said a lot has changed since the last time they got together due to COVID-19.

In the coming months, their unions and many other businesses will likely continue to struggle with COVID-19 and vaccinations.

It's something that Bukiewicz says if people don’t sort out themselves, market forces likely will.

“If you're not there, again, it's going to be reflective in insurance rates and everything else,” said Bukiewicz.

Others celebrating included voluntary organizing committee member with Colectivo Collective Union, Hillary Laskonis.

She said their unionization efforts started during the pandemic.

“Because some essential workers with the company were still working and didn't feel quite safe, so in solidarity with them, we kind of started talking about unionizing," said Laskonis.

She said they eventually voted to work with IDEW in an effort to work on pandemic issues they faced.

“It's just kind of incredible this year to be able to celebrate," said Laskonis.

Bukiewicz said it’s also about establishing privatized pension, health funds and more for workers.

“It is really about workers and human rights, so congratulations Colectivo.”

In a statement after the Colectivo union vote, company officials said they're disappointed by the result of the vote because a majority of their employees did not vote in favor of unionization.

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