Labor Day 2014 in Muncie IN
Mayor Dennis Tyler: America was built with blood, sweat and courage of working people
By Rick Yencer
MUNCIE, INDIANA (NEWS) - Labor had its day in the community as the Solidarity United Way Picnic drew a few hundred people to south Muncie to celebrate working people and those who built America.
Live United was the message among business and labor as a classic car show, hot dogs and beans and family were apparent among the Labor Day crowd.
And there were politicians galore led by Democratic Mayor Dennis Tyler who talked about the day that honors whose who built schools, bridges, roads and buildings occupied by commerce and business that makes America still the greatest country in the world.
"We hope each day everyone remembers who built this country," said Tyler. "It was the blood, seat and courage of working people."
Tyler, a retired firefighter and former state lawmaker, became the first Democratic mayor of Muncie in more than two decades after Republicans and money ran Middletown USA during the late 20th Century.
That was the time Ball Corp. left along with Borg Warner Automotive and many other good paying jobs.
In 2014, Indiana is still a Republican state with few partisans of Democratics running little more than than some cities, counties and towns.
But still on the minds of carpenters, electricians, labors and others is the sustainble future of the economy after Republican lawmakers and former Gov., Mitch Daniels made Right to Work a law a few years ago.
At best, organized labor is still stable after RTW according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and even academics who track the economy.
Michael Hicks, a distinguished economics professor at Ball State University told the Muncie Free Press on Labor Day that Indiana's economy did quite well even after RTW was passed. But there's too little data to test the actual impact of the law. And it might be years before the actual impact is known.
That law which which gives people a choice on whether to join a union and pay dues, actually had little impact in the last few years. The federal labor bureau found union membership was about 11.3 percent in 2011 when the law was passed. It went to 9.1 percent the next year but came back to 9.3 percent in 2013.
In round numbers that is 249,000 workers.
Kevin Cope, business agent for International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 855, said the issue with the economy is sustainability and whether recent efforts to employ skilled labor and other building trades in central Indiana would last.
IBEW has seen its share of work locally on the Johnson Hall renovation at Ball State University, the new Dick's Sporting Goods at the Muncie Mall and even the Village Promenade near Ball State.
Carpenters Local 1016 along with Labors Local 1112 also saw work at those sites and anticipate more work like electricians at the new Courtyard by Marriott DWNTWN and an $8 million parking garage.
Cope said more than 70 people had been working on the current projects and dozens more could be employed on the DWNTWN projects in 2015.
And labor always joins with business in helping the yearly United Way drive and its upcoming Day of Giving on Thursday.
Look for labor besides bank and business to turn out to help the Buley Center and Boy's and Girls Club of Muncie that serves those in need.
Susan Heitzman, Democratic candidate for Congress, agreed with the mayor that the best way to improve the economy was to put people to work by building infrastructure and buildings to employ people.
Heitzman runs a non traditional campaign, not taking money from special interests or political action committee, and believes most people want an end to the polarization and division of lawmakers in Congress.