Largest Labor Day picnic in MN attracts voters and candidates

By KBJR News 1

September 1, 2014 Updated Sep 1, 2014 at 7:12 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) -- The 123rd annual Labor Day Picnic in Duluth marks the unofficial end of summer, but kicks off the political season.

Duluth's Labor Day picnic is the largest Labor Day celebration in the state of Minnesota. While numbers nationally for labor unions have been dwindling, union representatives say Minnesota has been bucking that trend.

"We're seeing our numbers in the AFL–CIO state wide going up, and that is just a positive thing for the workers in this state. It means, um, decent, wages it means, better benefits, it means strength in numbers," said Dan O'Neill, AFL-CIO, Duluth Labor Body.

O'Neill said roughly 2,000 people attended the picnic, making it an opportunity for DFL candidates to rally their base.

"The biggest reason many of us come is to talk with the politicians, with the election coming up November 4th many of them are here to talk about what they want to do for us and we are here to listen to what they are going to do for us," said Laurie Warner, who attended the picnic.

One of the issues at the center of the conversation is health care.

"Having affordable health insurance is important and knowing that we have job security and a job that pays us a wage that we can support our families," said Warner.

U.S. Senator Al Franken, who says he is part of three labor unions, said he is doing what he can to help Union health care coverage.

"Unions that cover themselves are going to be paying something called the belly–button tax, so that means $63 per member. So I have a piece of legislation to delay that going into place," said Franken.

However, Franken said getting people to the polls will be one of the biggest challenges.

"On an off year race, in 2010, we had a very low turnout. We can't make that mistake again."

Also in attendance was Governor Mark Dayton, Lieutenant Governor Yvonne Prettner Solon, and Congressmen Rick Nolan.

Sen. Franken is facing republican challenger Mike McFadden in the elections. Congressmen Nolan is up against Stewart Mills and Gov. Dayton faces Jeff Johnson.

Posted to the web by Kati Anderson.