The labor movement in Tyler and Smith County was celebrated with a picnic Monday in observance of Labor Day that drew approximately 150 people, including several public office holders and candidates as well as families of workers.
The Smith County Central Labor Council sponsored the event at Lindsey Park to recognize labor organizations in Smith County and to make people aware of the elections process coming up in November, George Elmore, council vice president, said.
The picnic was also aimed at making sure people are registered to vote, Elmore said. He added that he was pleased to see young people in the crowd so they could learn how important it is to be involved in the election process as well as learn about the contributions of labor to the community.
Attendees relaxed while listening to music and speakers before the serving of hamburgers, hot dogs, wings and other food. Drawings were also conducted.
Smith County Precinct 4 Commissioner Jo Ann Hampton pointed out that every year labor unions come together for a big picnic and invite the community and candidates running for office.
Hampton rallied the crowd to register to vote and to vote in local elections as well as the presidential election in November.
“Issues are passed down to local government, so you want to make sure that whoever is in federal offices and state offices knows what the people at the local level need in order to carry out their job,” she said.
A lifetime member of the United Steel Workers, Tyler District 3 City Council Member Ed Moore said, “I’m here because it’s Labor Day and it’s an important day for the community to come together and talk about the issues we face as workers.”
Pointing out that the picnic is an annual event staged by the labor movement in East Texas, Moore recalled that 20 years ago, the Tyler community’s economy was built on production predominantly. There still are a few labor organizations and production plants in Tyler, Moore said, although today Tyler’s economy is built largely upon retirement homes, restaurants and the medical district.
Shirley McKellar, who is running on the Democratic ticket for U.S. District 1 representative, said the unions helped make the working environment better than what it used to be with a structured 40-hour work week and overtime. “I support the union in all aspects,” she said.
Encouraging people to vote, McKellar also said she was there to educate and train residents on the importance of their vote.
Larry Reddic, a candidate for District 4 constable, said he has over 40 years law enforcement experience and would like to be elected so that he could improve service to help the community to grow and prosper.
Gary Pinkerton, a candidate for Smith County sheriff, said, “I came to this event to meet the citizens of Smith County and give them an opportunity to meet me. I want to let them know I’m running so that together we can make a difference to make Smith County and Tyler a better place (and) make sure citizens of Smith County are protected and safe.”
Pinkerton, who started in the sheriff’s office as a jailer and worked his way up to chief deputy, noted there are many negative things going on with law enforcement. Pinkerton said law enforcement officers should be willing to have dialogue with residents and talk with children about not only complying with law enforcement but also complying with authority.