A Celebration of Labor at Barberton Parade

Sep 2, 2019

From politicians to princesses, the Labor Day parade in Barberton is an annual tradition that people line the streets to see. There are plenty of labor representatives there--and one statewide officeholder who’s support for labor is atypical.

Secretary of State Frank LaRose drives a tractor into place for the Barberton Labor Day parade
Credit SARAH TAYLOR / WKSU

Amid pickup trucks with loud speakers, youth football and cheer teams, a show choir and a Teamsters semi, there was a vintage tractor from a Copley farm. Secretary of State Frank LaRose drove it from the community pancake breakfast to his spot in the parade lineup on 18th street.

“I operated that tractor when I was a high school kid,” LaRose said. He is a Republican and a supporter of business but also labor unions. “I’m proud to be a pro-labor Republican and proud to be walking with these men and women in the parade.”

That included members of the AFL-CIO, the food and commercial workers and sheet metal unions. The plumbers and pipefitters wore shirts declaring “Skilled Labor isn’t cheap, and cheap labor isn’t skilled.” Tim Stem is the business manager for Plumbers and Pipefitters local 219.

Tim Stem is the business manager for Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 219.
Credit SARAH TAYLOR / WKSU

“Apprenticeship program is going strong, we’re about 70 guys now. That’s what we’re about is the training. That’s what makes us skilled labor is the training.”

Stem says they have about 550 members in Portage, Summit, and Medina Counties and that’s growing. “We’ve got people comin’ to the door all the time," he said.