SOUTH PLAINFIELD - For many in New Jersey, Labor Day signifies the unofficial end of summer, but few know the real meaning behind the holiday.

To politicians, it's about parades and public appearances. "It's nice to see all the different groups, Democrats and Republicans,” says Lester Okoszko, of South Plainfield.

But for unions, who created the holiday, it's about making the case that they are still needed. While critics might say the groups' influence is declining, unionized power workers say that without them, New Jersey would not have recovered from Hurricane Sandy.

"Labor's about hard-working individuals who keep the lights on," says Robert Disch, of IBEW Local 94.

In the Garden State, 16 percent of all workers are unionized, and unions contribute more than half of all money to state political campaigns.

In 1887, New Jersey was one of the first states to create a Labor Day holiday.