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PEP Oct 2014
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Public Employee Press

One City, Five boroughs, All Workers
Members March on Labor Day

BY ALFREDO ALVARADO


PEP photos by Elena Olivo and Mike Lee  


Sweltering late-summer heat didn't discourage tens of thousands of workers representing dozens of unions from marching up Fifth Avenue Saturday, Sept. 6 in New York City's 131st annual Labor Day parade.

"One City, Five Boroughs, All Workers," was the theme of this year's parade, which was organized by the New York City AFL-CIO Central Labor Council. "We celebrate the diversity of the labor movement, and our unity and determination to help ensure that all workers receive the wages, benefits, dignity and respect that we deserve," said CLC President Vincent Alvarez.

The festivities began shortly after dawn, with union members and leaders of all faiths attending the traditional Roman Catholic Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral. Public Advocate Letitia James spoke out against the recent attacks on unions, and at a news conference earlier in the week, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and City Council Member Daneek Miller of the 27th District in Queens praised the many contributions of organized labor to the city and urged city residents and politicians to support efforts to raise workers' wages.

As thousands waited to march up the avenue, a small child fainted in the intense heat, but Emergency Medical Technician Carl Gandolfo of Local 2507 came to the rescue and revived the boy.

Members of numerous DC 37 locals assembled and collected snacks and water bottles on West 47th Street, with children enjoying free face-painting and volunteers registering many to vote.



Cora Parrish, a School Crossing Guard, was one of the many DC 37 members who came to the parade with their coworkers. "Solidarity," the Local 372 member answered, when PEP asked why she braved the heat when she could have used the day off to relax at home. "It's about union solidarity, so I had to be here with my union today," said Parrish, who came with colleagues Cynthia Edwards and Josephine Henry, who work at PS 76 in Manhattan.

Feelings of solidarity brought hundreds of DC 37 members to the parade.

"It's about support for our union," said Emmett Washington, a Local 924 member who has been on the job for 40 years.

Leading the DC 37 contingent up Fifth Avenue were Executive Director Lillian Roberts, Secretary and Local 1070 President Clifford Koppelman and Treasurer and Local 1407 President Maf Misbah Uddin.

"We are a central player in the history of organized labor in this city, so it's important for us to be here today and show everyone that labor continues to fight for workers and all New Yorkers," Roberts said.



Solidarity with low-wage workers

Hundreds of unions and locals joined in the parade. Marching alongside DC 37 were Transportation Workers Union Local 100, the New York State Nurses Association, Teamsters Local 817 and the Professional Staff Congress.

United Auto Workers Region 9 Director Julie Kushner was the parade chair and Chris Erikson, business manager of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 3, was the grand marshal.

Created by unions to showcase workers' contributions to the nation's strength and prosperity, the first Labor Day parade was held in New York City in 1882. New York State was one of the first to make Labor Day an official holiday in 1887, and it became a national holiday in 1894. Despite recent decades' drop in union membership around the country, in New York City nearly one in four workers belongs to a union.


Local 1359 President and Chair of the Political Action Committee Dennis Ifill.


State Senate candidate Robert Jackson with Local 372 Executive VP Donald Nesbit (left) and Local 372 President Shaun D. Francois.

This year, for the first time in its long history, the parade included not-yet-unionized workers - fast-food, airport and car wash workers who have been organizing and striking for fair wages and union rights.

"We have to ensure that these low-wage workers have our support in their fight to improve wages and benefits and their right to join a union," Alvarez said.


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