In front of a crowd of union members, Labor Fest Racine organizer Rich Hinderholtz talked about the ties the Racine area had to the labor movement at the Caledonia-Mount Pleasant Memorial Park in Franksville Monday.

The whole corridor — Chicago, Kenosha, Racine, and Milwaukee — grappled with employers to define a social contract that included an eight-hour work week, injured and sick pay, and wage rates during the industrial revolution, Hinderholtz said.

“The companies used to have boats of people waiting to replace striking workers,” he said.

The Labor Fest picnic was a reminder of that history, but several speakers — including Democratic candidates stumping for votes for various positions — focused on Racine’s continued ties to the labor movement.

“The extremists have taken over the Republican Party,” said Sen. Bob Wirch (D-Kenosha), who represents the 22nd Senate District. “….And you can bet they’ll be pushing right to work.”

Wirch isn’t up for re-election, but he emphasized the Democratic Party’s focus of wanting to gain control of either the House or the Senate.

Caledonia resident Randy Bryce, who is running against former Sen. Van Wanggaard, said he was outraged that people are working 40 hours a week, but still qualifying for food stamps.

“We need to take back the state,” Bryce said. “We are the makers, not the takers.”

Sen. John Lehman, who is running for Lt. Governor against incumbent Rebecca Kleefisch, said he supports progressive values.

“We can change this state and we can change the United States of America,” Lehman said.

Janice Hand told the crowd that she planned to form a committee to explore running to become the mayor of Racine. Alderman Edward Diehl also announced that he would be running for mayor last week.

“People in the city work hard,” she said. “And often times they do it at the risk of their own lives. I hope to help the city by bringing more respect for those working for the city.”

Melissa Lemke also said she’s running for Racine City Council.

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Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.