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Different feel for this year’s Laborfest, after recall protests last year

MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee’s annual “Laborfest,” held each Labor Day had a different feel this year. Last year, there were protests against Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker following the passage of Act 10 — the bill effectively ending collective bargaining for public unions. Some who attended last year’s Laborfest events were asked to sign pledges indicating they’d sign a petition to recall Gov. Walker. Organizers said this year’s festivities provided a chance for labor supporters to regroup.

Laborfest, held every Labor Day, is the most visible presence of the Milwaukee Area Labor Council AFL-CIO.

The all-day festival began back in 1965.

The annual event kicked off with a parade through downtown Milwaukee Monday morning, followed by the free festival on the Summerfest grounds (Henry Maier Festival Park).

Sheila D. Cochran is the COO of the Milwaukee Area Labor Council. Cochran says after President Barack Obama’s appearance at Laborfest 2010 and statewide recall efforts drawing focus in 2011, this year was different.

“We get a chance to take a breath, to regroup, to think about how to go forward. You gotta come together to do that. It’s grassroots organizing. We have to reorganize ourselves,” Cochran said.

Parade attendees said Monday morning they were happy for the chance to commemorate Labor Day with the parade.

“I especially wanted to come to this one because all the different unions are represented, and come out to support them,” Jessie Johnson said.

“I wanted to support the laborers — the people who make things, do things. The people who do the really hard, sweaty, dirty work,” Tracey Sperko said.

Laborfest activities were held on the Summerfest grounds through 5:00 p.m. Monday.

CLICK HERE for additional information on Milwaukee’s Laborfest.

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