DECATUR — Riki Dial said there are two meanings behind "We Are One," the theme of this year's Labor Day parade and picnic.
On one hand, it signifies the annual gathering of the Decatur Trades & Labor Assembly and the Decatur Building & Construction Trades Council. On the other, he said it highlights the unity between them in their efforts to receive fair treatment while on the job.
"That's what this picnic represents," said Dial, the parade's chairman and a member of the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters. "These people here right now believe that workers deserve to have good working conditions."
On Monday morning, hundreds of spectators lined North Main and South Franklin streets to watch the Labor Day parade make its way through downtown Decatur. It featured nearly 40 local organizations, and Macon County Sheriff Thomas Schneider served as the parade's grand marshal.
Afterward, over 1,800 people made their way to Fairview Park for the Labor Day picnic, which featured bounce houses, pulled pork sandwiches, face painting, music and a performance by the Decatur Power Tumblers.
State Rep. Sue Scherer, D-Decatur, said the city's festivities embodied the true nature of Labor Day, which was first recognized as a federal holiday in 1894.
"To me, Labor Day is a moment to take pause," she said. "These families are united with their families, but they're also united with their union brothers and sisters just to remember that together, everybody is more powerful and more protected than if everybody goes out and tries to do things on their own."
In addition to the parade and picnic, $14,000 in grants were distributed to eleven local non-profit organizations during a special presentation by the We Are One Community Fund — which is funded by donations from union members.
Founded in 2011, Chairwoman Amy Rueff said that the fund has given $95,000 over the past six years.
This year's recipients of the We Are One Community grants include the Decatur Family YMCA, Northeast Community Fund, Old King's Orchard Community Center, Meals on Wheels, Homework Hangout Pre-Apprentice Program, Boy Scouts, Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Child 1st Center, Good Samaritan Inn, Decatur Power Tumblers and Webster-Cantrell Hall.
Dial said that he takes pride in everything that union members can accomplish, and he hopes that the true character of his "brothers and sisters" will dispel any negativity geared toward unions.
"This is the Decatur-Macon County working class right here," he said. "This is the middle America working class at its finest."
As a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers for 31 years, Wayne Tipsword said being in a union has provided him and his family a variety of opportunities and benefits over the years.
The 54-year-old journeyman electrician said he always looks forward to the Labor Day picnic because it serves as a reunion of sorts between the union members. It's one of the things that keeps him coming back year after year, he said.
"You meet all kinds of people here," Tipsword said. "It's a lot of fun."