Dozens of union workers along with local dignitaries spent their Labor Day holiday in the kitchen - and over the grill -- at Loaves & Fishes, cooking and serving chicken dinner for more than 600 hungry Sacramentans.
The annual Loaves & Fishes barbecue has been a tradition for more than 25 years, said Greg Larkins, community services labor liaison for the AFL-CIO/United Way California Capital Region. Donated by the United Food and Commercial Workers' Local 8, some 300 whole chickens became the main course for this holiday meal, which also featured potato salad, corn on the cob, bread, watermelon and cake for dessert.
Labor Day still has a great deal of significance to local workers, Larson noted. Behind only New York City and Detroit, Sacramento ranks third nationally in percentage of union members in the overall work force. About 170,000 union members live in the five-county area surrounding the state capital.
This meal has become a Labor Day tradition for many volunteers, said electrician Jon Thompson of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 340.
"There's just the desire to pass it along," he said. "We're doing OK; we've got a contract in place and a hopeful future. We want to spread that around."
Among the familiar faces working the cafeteria line were Sacramento's Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, Rep. Ami Bera plus several other elected officials.
"This is a great tradition," Steinberg said. "The labor federation has every right to take the day off to celebrate, but instead chose to take this opportunity to help people in need.
"I'm very proud of the labor community in Sacramento," he added. "We've had tough economic times; things are getting better. A lot of people are working, but a lot of people have been hit with the hardest of hard times. It's very important to help."
Marking its 30th anniversary this year, Loaves & Fishes serves 650 to 800 clients a day, said director Tasha Murdock. The shelter averages about 17,000 meals a month. But the Labor Day meal is special.
"There's always a big turnout for this event and we appreciate it," Murdock said of the barbecue. "People want to know that they're not forgotten. This is a wonderful blessing."
Call The Bee's Debbie Arrington, (916) 321-1075. Follow her on Twitter @debarrington.