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Philadelphia Area Trade Unionists Celebrate May Day


Members of Philadelphia’s Labor movement came together to take part in the May Day rally and family Celebration, held in Clark park, 43rd Street and Baltimore Avenue, on Monday, May 1, 2017.
The event was co-sponsored by the May Day USA Education Committee and the Pennsylvania Labor History Society. It was endorsed by several Labor groups in the Philadelphia area, including the Philadelphia Area Project for Occupational Safety and Health (PHILAPOSH), and supported by the Green Party of Philadelphia and of Pennsylvania, the Newspaper Guild of Greater Philadelphia, Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO, Veterans for Peace, Coalition of labor Union Women, locals of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), AFSCME District Council 47, Philadelphia Unemployment Project, and Service Employees International Union Healthcare Pennsylvania.
Various tables were set up with literature from the Socialist Workers Party, Socialist Party USA, Communist Party USA, New Sanctuary Movement, Green Party, and the Zinn Education Project (promoting the work of historian Howard Zinn, author of A People’s History of the United States). Veterans for Peace Chapter 31’s “Precision Grill Team” provided refreshments.
The rally began with a parade of members of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) from Lea Elementary School, 47th and Locust streets, and performances by the Xtreme Creations Drill Team and the West Powelton Drummers.
Jim Moran and Paul Grubb, co-chairs of the May Day USA Education Committee, welcomed those attending. Bill Ehrhart, poet, writer, and member of Veterans for Peace chapter 31, read his poetry.
Bennet Sears, longtime labor activist and member of the May Day USA committee, presented a resolution from the Pennsylvania State House of Representatives, which passed unanimously, which recognized May 1, 2017, as International Workers’ Day in Pennsylvania. “It was first introduced by Representative Jim Roebuck,” said Sears, “and he got around twenty-five co-sponsors, so it’s a very impressive resolution.” The resolution, said Sears, recognized the struggles of workers to form unions for defending their interests; it was signed by House Speaker Mike Turzi.
Philadelphia City Council-member Helen Gym presented a resolution, passed unanimously by the City Council, which recognized May first, “in perpetuity,” as International Workers Day.
Evette Jones, Staff Representative of PFT, presented awards to students in the Philadelphia School District for the May Day USA Student Art Project, on the theme of “What May Day-International Workers Day-Means to Me”; Mahfuza Chowdhury and Emma Graff, Philadelphia High School for girls; and Gracylla Wijaya, Howard Furness High School.
The Aggie Moran Human Rights Award was presented to Jed Dodd, General Chairman of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees (IBT); and the New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia, an organization dedicated to resisting the government’s deportation policies towards undocumented immigrants. The award was presented for “significant contributions to the working class struggle for human rights.”
Speaking at the rally were Jerry Jordan, President of the PFT, who spoke on the union’s ongoing contract dispute with the Philadelphia School District; Carl Mirra, from the Zinn Education Project; and Carolina Torres, representing Juntos, an immigrant rights group.
Entertainment was provided by Joie Kathos (hip-hop), Andy Blue Antipin (folk), and Peaches Little Brothers (singers and guitarists).