TERRE HAUTE — On Labor Day, Bill Treash, president of the Wabash Valley Central Labor Council, decided to ask members of the public what the holiday meant to them.
Some of the answers he received:
• “It’s the working man’s day to be recognized.”
• “A reminder of my dad’s 26 years as a union member.”
• “Celebration of working men and women trying to make ends meet and provide for their families.”
• “A reminder of the never-ending battle for a living wage.”
• “An opportunity to reflect on years of toil.”
Judging from the large crowds that lined the Labor Day parade route in downtown Terre Haute and the number of participating units in the parade, those sentiments ran strong among those who actively participated in the events of the day.
Monday’s events culminated with the Central Labor Council awards dinner at the Holiday Inn. About 230 people attended, including organized labor representatives and politicians from Terre Haute and throughout the state. The keynote speaker was Trent Van Haaften, the Democratic candidate in the Eighth District congressional race.
Treash described the dinner as a way “to honor working men and women in the Wabash Valley for what they do in the community and to recognize six award winners that we felt were deserving of an award.”
In an interview prior to the dinner, Van Haaften said he planned to talk about “jobs and the importance of putting people to work.”
Among his priorities are closing corporate tax loopholes that encourage American companies to move jobs overseas. Another priority for him involves rewarding small businesses with tax credits for hiring local workers.
“In Evansville, we’ve experienced the closure of Whirlpool, which sent 1,100 jobs to Mexico,” he said. “That’s 1,100 paychecks that aren’t being received. That’s 1,100 families that aren’t tithing to their church the way they used to. They aren’t going out to dinner on a Friday night the way they used to. They aren’t shopping at the local mall. When something breaks down, they’re not calling the local repairman to fix it.”
According to Van Haaften, “When we lose jobs to other countries, we are just tearing the fabric of our own communities.”
What needs to change are tax codes that provide opportunities for corporations to defer tax liability and actually save taxes by moving production to another country, he said.
“That’s a loophole that we cannot allow to exist,” he said. “That’s the type of policy we need to change.”
He also wants to provide tax credits and tax incentives for small businesses that enable them to make investments and grow – and hire local workers.
In November, Van Haaften faces off against Republican Larry Bucshon, a cardiovascular surgeon from Newburgh, for the Eighth District seat being vacated by Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D-Evansville) as he makes a bid for the U.S. Senate.
A resident of Mount Vernon, Van Haaften is a former Posey County prosecuting attorney. He has served in the Indiana House of Representatives since 2004.
The highlight of the evening was the presentation of the awards to the following individuals and unions:
• Union member of the year award: Ann Barnes, American Postal Workers Local 618
• Local union of the year: IBEW Local 725
• Media award: Howard Greninger, Tribune-Star reporter
• Public servant of the year award: Norm Loudermilk, Firefighters Local 758, Terre Haute City Council
• Leo Perlis Community Service Award: John Trueblood, United Steel Workers Local 103A
• Pete Culver Labor Day Award: Mike Short, LIUNA State of Indiana District Council.
Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or firstname.lastname@example.org.