BUTTE — It's Labor Day in Butte and people are celebrating with the annual picnic at the Carpenters Union Hall.
"Today we’re celebrating a real Butte, America Labor Day and so we got some nice hot dogs and some cold drinks, some beans— that’s a tradition here for us and we’re glad that everybody made it up after the rain," says Lenny Williams, the president of the Southwest Montana Central Labor Council.
The annual picnic is a tradition that usually takes place at Stodden Park, but due to rainfall the venue was changed to the historic Carpenters Union Hall and Lenny says the picnic is not just a celebration for Union members but for all workers.
"Today’s a day to celebrate us: the public employees and other union members who have fought for the rights of working families since before Montana was a statehood," says Amanda Curtis, president of the Montana Federation of Public Employees.
Curtis is the president of the Montana Federation of Public Employees representing about 20, 000 members across Montana.
"So happy to be in the Gibraltar of Unionism celebrating Labor Day and celebrating the workers that drive the economy," says Curtis.
She says this picnic illustrates the historic efforts that workers have made to stand up for themselves and it all started in Butte with a couple of teachers.
"We’re standing right in the origin of it in Montana. The Butte teachers union bargained the very first public contract in America before public employees really had the right to unionize," says Curtis.
She says the story of Butte teachers unionizing is relevant today as public employees continue to fight for fair wages for the work they do.
"We are looking forward to the next legislative session to continue to protect our workers' rights and to send the message that we are the professionals that educate our kids, keep us all healthy, keep our drinking water safe, protect our communities, and really keep Montana running and we deserve respect," says Curtis.