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Mining City residents say Labor Day especially important

By Grace Ditzler, KTVM Reporter, gditzler@ktvm.com
Published On: Sep 02 2013 06:13:07 PM MDT
Updated On: Sep 02 2013 06:26:13 PM MDT
BUTTE, Mont. -

Folks all over Montana gathered at picnics Monday to celebrate Labor Day.

Butte residents came together for their annual picnic that celebrates union workers from the past and the present.

"Labor is all about Butte, and Butte's all labor," said Evan Barrett, a teacher of Montana State history at Highlands College. He's also been involved with Butte labor unions for more than 30 years.

NBC Montana caught up with him at Butte's annual picnic. We asked him about the historical significance of labor unions in the Mining City.

"Butte was perhaps the most unionized place in America," Barrett explained. "This is where the first women's unions came. There were unions for newspaper boys, unions for every possible trade you could imagine and as such, that spilled over into the rest of Montana. It spilled over to the rest of the West."

We also spoke with Lieutenant Governor John Walsh, who's from Butte, and said his dad was a part of that history.

"I grew up in Butte, graduated from high school in 1979," Walsh said, "and my dad worked for the Anaconda Company. And I still remember the days when the Anaconda Company would go on strike, and my dad would have to go work in Missoula or Bozeman...because he still had to put food on the table."

He tells us the hard work of the union workers is close to his heart, and the annual picnic is an important way to celebrate.

"It's a good opportunity for the work force and the labor organizations to come out and relax a little bit, and say thank you to each other for what they've done," Walsh said.

Barrett said it's also about looking to the future.

"In order for us to look forward, we have to look forward to strengthening workers' voices, and workers' voices are found when they can organize together and have one voice," Barrett explained.