Sentiments of unity and solidarity echoed loudly Monday as thousands of unionized workers marched through the streets of downtown Toledo for the 2012 Labor Day parade.
Members from more than 40 local unions flooded the streets in matching T-shirts, some labeled with "We are the 99%." The slogan developed from the Occupy Wall Street movement and refers to the growing income inequality and wealth distribution between 99 percent of Americans and the richest 1 percent of Americans who are increasingly accumulating a greater share of the national wealth.
Other T-shirts carried the message: "We are one."
Participants held banners and cheered with supporters who lined the streets to show their support and soak up the last bits of summer.
"It's an opportunity to get together with our labor brothers and sisters and celebrate our unionism," said Cerssandra McPherson of Toledo, a member of the Toledo Federation of Teachers Local 250. "It's a chance to reflect on what we've fought for."
Marchers lined up at the corner of Summit and Monroe streets about 8 a.m. in preparation of the procession. Groups marching in the parade included Yark Automotive, the Zenobia Shriners, Toledo Edison, UPS, and a variety of other area businesses and organizations.
In addition, unions representing postal and auto workers, librarians, teachers, newspapers employees, steel and electrical workers also marched.
Students from the Toledo Technology Academy rode in hybrid, tri-bid, electric, and hydrogen fueled mini-cars. Live music was provided by six area high school marching bands and drum corps from Mecca Temple 43 and JJ Express Drill and Drum Corp.
"It's exciting," said Everett Anderson of Toledo as he watched the parade from Huron Street. "We have an opportunity to see our fellow workers that have built this great country. Toledo is a part of the big picture."
Children lined up along Summit and Huron streets clapping for marchers and calling for candy.
"Candy! We want candy," a group of young boys shouted to the marchers.
Police estimate about 10,000 people came out for the parade, including several hopefuls, who wanted to catch a glimpse of President Obama who arrived in Toledo Sunday. The President made an appearance at Scott High School Monday as part of a swing-state tour of Ohio, Iowa, Colorado, and Virginia before heading Louisiana and then to Charlotte, where he is to accept the nomination for a second term on Thursday.
U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) were two of the many elected officials who marched in the parade.
A Mitt Romney impersonator carried a sign that read "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt."
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The mood was one of uncertainty mixed with optimism as workers expressed their hopes and fears about the upcoming elections.
"I value my wages, my hours, and my health insurance," said Chris Holland of Millbury, a secretary for Oregon City Schools and a member of Ohio Association of Public School Employees Local 320. "We have to elect people who are going to protect what we've worked for. If we let corporate control everything, we'd be worked to death for nothing."
Last year, the Wisconsin Supreme Court voted to reinstate a controversial plan to end most collective bargaining for tens of thousands of public workers. Mrs. Holland's husband, Bud Holland, said he'd hate to see the same thing happen in Ohio.
"Our parents put a lot of effort into getting the unions," said Mr. Holland, a member of UAW Local 12. "We can't just give it away."
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