May Day March and Rally in Philadelphia, by John O. Mason
Members of the Labor movement and allied causes in Philadelphia joined in the May Day March and rally on Friday, May 1, 2015.
The events were sponsored by the Philadelphia Area Project for Occupational Safety and Health (PHILAPOSH) and the May Day USA Education Committee.
The march started at the McDonald’s restaurant on 40th and Walnut streets, to emphasize the movement for supporting fast-food workers’ right to a living wage and to organize. State Senator Daylin Leach spoke to reporters of a bill he introduced in the General Assembly that would raise the state’s minimum wage to $15.00 an hour.
The bill, said Leach, would help low income workers “who have been left behind I this economy, and it’s time that stopped.” Also, the bill, added Leach, “would eliminate the tip minimum wage, which hasn’t gone up in twenty-one years. It’s $2.83 an hour in Pennsylvania, if you have a job where you supposedly get tips. Often tipped workers don’t even make close to the $7.25 an hour minimum wage.”
The problem with the current minimum wage, said Leach, is “if you work full-time in hard back-breaking work, often you live in poverty, and that’s not what the minimum wage was designed to do, and in a time of the greatest income inequality in a hundred years, it’s just not an appropriate way to be…In Seattle, they raised (the minimum wage) to $15.00, which is what (his bill) proposes to do, and they’re doing great in Seattle.”
The march went south on 40th Street to Baltimore Avenue, then to Clark Park, 43rd and Baltimore Avenue, for the rally. Literature tables were set up such groups as the Green Party, Socialist Party USA, Socialist Alternative, the Philadelphia chapter of the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW), and the Socialist Workers Party. Chapter 31 of the Veterans for Peace had their “Precision Grill Team” provide food for participants.
Paul Grubb, one of the co-chairs of the May Day committee, welcomed people to the rally and introduced Evette Jones, a staff member of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT). “The PFT,” said Jones, “believes in and supports our brothers and sisters who are out there fighting to get a fifteen dollar minimum wage…As educators, we have the great responsibility of preparing our school children for the future, whether that means college or joining the work force.”
The fight for the fifteen-dollar minimum wage, said Jones, “is not only for future generations, but is for today’s working parents of our Philadelphia school children. It is proven, that children from more economically stable homes do better school. Raising the standard of living in Philadelphia means raising the achievement levels for our students. And when we raise the achievement level of our students, we can stop the hedge-funders and the fat cats from trying to close our schools (and from) trying to close public education.”
Jim Moran, veteran Labor activist and co-chair of the May Day Committee, introduced Cheri Honkala, veteran homeless activist and a leading figure in the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign. “I bring you greetings,” she began,” from the poor and homeless brothers and sisters” in Philadelphia, and added, “I’ve been working with other poor and homeless families in the last twenty-five years in this city.
“People have always said” added Honkala, “that homeless people are lazy, they don’t have a work ethic. They are some of the hardest working brothers and sisters I’ve ever met in my life. Every day, they lay down on a couch, a sidewalk, in a car, wherever in this city because you can’t get a place, a room or a shelter, and you haven’t been able to in five years, and when they lay down at night, they know the next morning they’re going to get up and (work) at McDonald’s or Wendy’s or wherever. And they’re going to continue to live in homelessness working in that poverty wage job.”
Jim Moran presented the Aggie Moran Human Rights Award to Books through Bars, an organization that supplies prison libraries with books for inmates to read; Cathy Brady, an activist for SEIU Health Care PA and Vice Presidetn of Friends of Elmwood Park, for her work in developing the Labor Monument at Elmwood Park, 71st Street and Buist Avenue, which honors the struggles of Organized Labor; and 15 Now and Fight for 15, groups advocating for the $15.00 an hour minimum wage.
Music before the rally and in intermission was provided by DJ Raul. ON the stage performing were singer-guitarist Shanta Bristow, folk singer Andi Antipin, hip-hop artist Joie Kathos, soloist Dina Yarmus, and folk singer Dave Marley.