Iowa's Labor Movement Says It's Alive and Well

Sep 5, 2016

Iowans gathered across the state Monday for parades, picnics and rallies to recognize the annual Labor Day holiday. In Des Moines, hundreds of union members paraded from the State Capitol to the State Fairgrounds.

A Labor Day parade in Des Moines drew hundreds of workers representing various unions.
Credit Rob Dillard

Labor Day has been on the books as a national holiday since 1894.

The president of the South Central Iowa Federation of Labor, Mark Cooper, says the day serves as a reminder to Americans the labor movement is alive and well.

Cooper has his own meaning of Labor Day permanently imprinted.

“I have it actually tattooed on my arm, it says union until I die," he says. "This to me, and I know I get a little pushback from my folks, this in my opinion is probable the most sacred holiday of all of the holidays of the year. I’m sorry, it trumps Christmas.”

Cooper says the organized labor movement benefits everyone.

“We advocate for all workers, whether they be organized workers or not," he says. "Obviously, we encourage the unorganized to organize, but we’re out here representing everyone. That’s why we fight for an increase in  the minimum wage to $15 an hour.”

Cooper worries the significance of Labor Day is diminishing in some people’s eyes. He says labor’s contribution to society needs to be recognized more.