Labor Day Celebration Fuels Desire For Activism

Labor Day Celebration Fuels Desire For Activism

Anum Valliani
NewsWest 9

ODESSA - While many spent the day relaxing, others went to Odessa's Slater Community Center to hear about union concerns at the 56th Annual Labor Day celebration. President of the Union sponsoring the event, 93 year-old Dallas E. Willis, has been there since the first one and he and his board have a mission.

"To honor those workers- women and men- who have helped to build this country," Willis, the Permian Basin Central Labor Union, AFL-CIO, President said. "Remembering people who labor."

According to the VIP Director for the AFL-CIO, they also want to keep the workers informed.

"They can be more aware of what's going on so we can keep our working people on top of what's going on because we know that it's been hard on some areas," Suzan Gentry said.

The event featured a BBQ style buffet and speakers who were especially focused on discussion of the state of education.

But even though Labor Day might be a day of rest for a lot of workers, some people, like in construction, say they can't afford to take the day off.

"Labor Day doesn't pay the bills," Nolberto Olmos, who's a contractor for a small family-owned company said.

The 19 year-old works two weeks straight with a three day break. Although he remembers being able to celebrate Labor Day in El Paso, in the Basin, he says it's just another day.

Unemployment in West Texas is at about three percent, which is much lower than the national average, but some people feel there's plenty of inequality in wage distribution across the Basin.

"The Labor Day Union Picnic is a wonderful reminder of that and a place to come and shout about it," Gayle Ellis, Precinct Chair in Midland, said.

The event boasted a positive moral and strong participation among the youth.

"Making change to happen is gonna be a state effort, but it starts at the grassroots, and the grassroots always starts by being excited and interested because it means something to us," Ellis said.

Darius Brown, who is student-athlete at Odessa College, said he came because he wanted to help people.

"Young people care too, so doing it for the young people and the older people, just letting them know we're still here caring about them," Brown said.

Most of all, attendees say they're glad so many people are working, even if they couldn't join in on the celebration.

"We'll keep having the Labor Day celebrations and hopefully somewhere along the line, they'll have the chance to participate in one," Willis said.