Skyline of Richmond, Virginia

Philadelphia Labor Community Celebrates Labor Day

09.15.12

A rainstorm did not dampen the spirits of thousands of trade unionists as they gathered to march in the 25th Annual Tri-State Labor Day Parade and family Celebration, on Monday, September 3 2012.
The march and celebration were co-sponsored by the Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO and the Tri-State Labor Day Parade Committee.
Marchers assembled at the parking lot of the Sheet Metal Workers Local 19 Hall, 1301 South Columbus Blvd. Due to the rain, the building was opened to allow participants in, and the rally took place in the assembly hall; they were greeted by Philadelphia AFL-CIO President Pat Eiding.
Philadelphia AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz McElroy thanked Local 19 for opening their building to the marchers, and introduced John Greer, Co-Chair of the Labor Day Parade Committee.
Greer reminded marchers of the slogan of former Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President Bill George: “What time is it?”, and the marchers replied, “Union time!” About the bad weather, Greer said, “We got a little rain on us today, but you know what? That doesn’t stop us.”
Of the forces that area aligned against working people, Greer said, “They want to break us, they want to make sure that we fall apart,” that would take away “what we (workers) have, what we fought for, all the things that we enjoy, like the forty-hour work week, vacations…Our ancestors fought for all that, they died for all that, and they know what they were fighting for.”
Pat Eiding spoke to the crowd, and commended the role of working people in building up the country, adding “All we ask from this country is, give us a place to work, and we’ll work you out of these economic problems.” Eiding urged employers, “Pay us a living wage, and maybe we’ll be able to dress our kids when they go to school, and maybe we’ll have some entertainment night, maybe take the kids to the movies.”
Speaking of the need for more jobs for workers, Eiding added, “All the talk in the world isn’t going to fix this country. The only way we’ll fix it is to work our way out of (economic problems). Give us the opportunity and we’ll do it.” Eiding also urged people to elect pro-worker candidates to public office.
Joe Dougherty, President of Ironworkers Local 401, said to the crowd, “Today, we not only celebrate Labor’s holiday, and the many accomplishments we have achieved…This is not a time for us to relax.” The threat to American workers, Dougherty added, “has never been greater. It’s a time for us to fight to protect what our ancestor fought so long and hard to gain for us, the need for us to stand together for all of America’s workers has never been more important.”
The upcoming presidential elections, said Dougherty, “is not just another election. It’s a war. It’s a war between the workers of America and the Republican party…It’s a war to regain and maintain a decent way of earning a living for all of America’s workers and their families. It’s a war to bring back the once-proud American philosophy of the American dream. It’s a war to protect the very existence of the American Labor union movement. Most of all, it’s a war we can’t afford to lose.” The Labor movement, added Dougherty, is the only thing standing against “the corporate-owned Republican party and the absolute poverty of America’s workers.”
Pat Eiding presented awards to students in the Philadelphia school district who did the art for the buttons and posters for the parade:
For buttons, first place went to Gabrielle Walls of Bishop Shanahan High School; second place, to Clarissa Kristie of Central High School; third place, to Brooke Clifford of Bishop Shanahan High School.
For posters, first place went to Megan thomas of Northeast High School; second place, to Rawan Abdemmdabi of Northeast High; and third place, to Desiree Trinidad of Northeast High.
US Representative Bob Brady (First District, Pennsylvania), a longtime ally of the Labor movement, called the movement “a sleeping giant,” adding, that Republican candidates for President and Vice-President, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan respectively, “are trying to take every one of your jobs away from you, and make everything non-union, and you heard it all last week,” during the Republican convention. Brady urged union members to get out and campaign and vote for workers’ interests.
After the rally, participants were greeted in the lobby by a performance of the Quaker City String Band. They assembled in the parking lot according to their unions and allied groups, and they marched through the rain north on Columbus Boulevard, ending at the festival pier of Penn’s Landing. The marchers enjoyed refreshments and the sounds of the Urban Guerilla Orchestra.