It’s a long road from Mexico to a place of honor in Peoria’s 2013 Labor Day Parade, but Arnie Carranza made that journey.
A Laborers Local 165 retiree and former officer, a community activist and friendly individual with a great reputation, Arnie was the Parade Marshal for Peoria’s 2013 Labor Day outing.
Born in Mexico, Arnulfo Carranza came to Chenoa, Illinois from Mexico when he was twelve. His father had found work on the Toledo, Peoria & Western Railroad. His mother’s family already had settled in Chenoa.
An immigrant child making a cultural and linguistic transition to another world, Arnie said another shock was moving from a Mexican city to a central Illinois small town. “There was not much to do.” Reflecting back, he felt that “There were some challenges, as a kid you don’t realize that much of a difference. There was a language barrier, but we transitioned. As a kid you learn faster.”
In 1977 Arnie joined Laborers Local 165 in Peoria. There was no apprenticeship at that time period, but Arnie remembered, “Back then it was a lot easier for a journeyman to show you. You worked side by side and you watched and learned.”
As a worker, he earned high praise, not only for his genial personality, but also for a strong work ethic. Local 165 business manager Tim Schmidgall remembered working with Arnie. “Arnie is a good friend of mine,” Schmidgall said. “He was a steward on many jobs a good union Laborer, solid and dependable.” He has served Local 165 as a steward, executive board member, sergeant-at-arms and recording secretary. “If there was a Latino workforce and I needed help talking to the workers or with a contractor, I could always depend on Arnie as a translator,” Schmidgall added.
Using his bilingual skills, Arnie is community involved. He helps lead Peoria Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA). When Peoria’s Friendship House brought the Mexican consulate to help with immigration issues, Arnie works as a translator. He’s worked on scholarships, voter registration drives and other community activities. These contributions brought him the recognition from Peoria unions.
Charlie Shempf, business manager of the Great Plains Laborers District Council and a Local 165 member and former business manager, also praised Arnie. “He’s one of those dependable, involved members, who carries the union banner out into the community. Arnie is a great guy, very unassuming, he is someone I’m very proud to call not only a union brother, but also a friend.”
Retired now, Arnie notes that when he started as a Laborer, “back then, I didn’t even think there would be a retirement, I just worked.” His genial attitude and volunteer spirit instead found him riding in a convertible in Peoria’s 2013 parade. “Who would have thought a kid who came from Mexico at age 12 would be a Grand Marshal of the Labor Day Parade?” Arnie said. His manner is low-key, but area unions recognized all the good work he does.