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Amid nationwide strikes, Des Moines unions celebrate Labor Day

Over a century after Labor Day's creation, workers across the country are challenging how they are treated.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Labor Day dates back to the 19th century, when activists pushed for a day paying tribute to workers in their fight for fair labor practices. 

More than a century later, a similar trend is happening. Hundreds of thousands of workers in various industries around the country are forming picket lines to demand better wages and increased benefits.

Local 5 spoke to AMCOR union members at the beginning of August after over 100 packaging workers in Des Moines started a strike.

"All they're asking now is to be able to afford the stuff they make, with a little bit extra on their on their increase in their salaries," said Andre Johnson of Teamsters Local 238, the union representing the workers.

After two weeks on strike, the company ultimately met those demands, earning the union workers a new four-year agreement. It included not only wage increases, but an extra holiday and more retirement money, too.

Union negotiations are also leaving an impact on several tradespeople in the Des Moines metro, many of which took part in Monday's Des Moines Labor Day Parade.

Blake Kinsey, a union member under Painters Local 1075, spoke about the power unions have in today's labor market.

“You get all your buddies, your coworkers, your friends, your family and you have a collective bargaining. And that’s your power," Kinsey said. "One person is very weak, but when you have your whole work force together, that’s when you can really get something going.”

Brandon Neal and Brad Courtney, both union sheet metal workers, believe that every worker deserves the benefits of being in a union. 

"Most people have your back. You get to make your own conditions this way, being in a union,” Neal said.

On a national scale, two weeks remain before Detroit’s United Auto Workers union could be the next working group to hit the picket lines, potentially continuing this summer of strikes into the fall.

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