Union activists, political candidates gather on Woodstock Square for Labor Day rally

County, congressional candidates work through storm to spread message

A little rain did not dampen the spirits of a group of political candidates, labor leaders, union activists and historians who gathered Monday on the Woodstock Square in recognition of Labor Day and the ongoing struggle of the working class.

The fourth annual Labor Day Celebration was co-sponsored by the McHenry County Progressives and the Democratic Party of McHenry County.

Robert Rosenberg of the McHenry County Progressives said the working class has been carrying the 1 percent on its back for centuries, and its reward for it has been underpaid and overworked jobs.

“When we come together and we organize, we’ve got the power,” Rosenberg said.

Several historians and storytellers discussed the history of the labor movement and its ties to Democratic values before county and congressional Democratic candidates took the stage.

Suzanne Ness, a McHenry County Board candidate in the 2nd District, said the idea of trickle-down economics as an asset to the labor force always felt meager to her.

“It always felt like scraps to the dogs,” Ness said.

Therefore, she said, it is important for people to rise up and speak for an underappreciated workforce.

“I believe we have the ability to create solutions that serve all of us,” Ness said.

Not long after Ness’ speech, rain poured down on the Square, forcing the rally indoors at the Main Street PourHouse, 214 Main St., Woodstock. Despite periodic power outages as the storms raged, attendees still managed to fill the back room of the bar.

Carlos Acosta, who is running for a County Board seat in the 5th District, said the labor movement has been a road paved with tears and pain, but he maintains his commitment to unions.

In response to flyers the Illinois Policy Institute sent out after the Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 ruling showing employees how to opt out of a union, Acosta stated that he was never going to quit his union. He then encouraged chants of “I will never quit my union” by audience members, which could be heard throughout the PourHouse.

But not all speakers were running for office at the county level.

Lauren Underwood, a Naperville nurse and health policy expert running in the state’s 14th Congressional District against Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Plano, said representatives should be honest and transparent with their votes and accountable to their constituents.

Underwood said she didn’t feel this way about Hultgren after he said during a public event last year that he would support an Obamacare repeal so long as individuals with pre-existing conditions maintained their coverage, only to vote for the American Health Care Act.

“I want to have your back in Washington,” Underwood said. “I know we can win.”

County clerk candidate Andrew “Drew” Georgi and County Board District 6 candidate Larry Spaeth also spoke about their support for unions.

Spaeth said unions have fought to end child labor and have fought to gain employer-paid health care.

“Health care is a right,” Spaeth said. “It’s not a privilege.”

Several speakers reminded attendees there were only 64 days before the 2018 general election, meaning it will be all the more important to spread the word about the candidates. Georgi called on audience members to donate to or volunteer for their preferred candidate.