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Greater Philadelphia Labor Day Parade

09.22.08

Labor Day Parade in Philadelphia
September 15, 2007
By John Oliver Mason

The Labor community in the Philadelphia area celebrated its accomplishments and made plans for the future at the Tri-State Labor Day Parade and Family Festival, on Labor Day, Monday September 1, 2008.
The Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO and the Tri-State Labor Day Parade Committee sponsored the event.
The event began with a rally at the Sheet Medal Workers Hall, 1301 Christopher Columbus Boulevard at 9:00 AM. Unions represented included AFSCME, CWA, Teamsters (who provided trucks for the parade), along with a bagpipe band from Elevator Constructors Locals 1 (from New York) and 5 (from Philadelphia); the drill teams Command Performance, Eastwick Commandos, Germantown Exclusive, Harris Steppers II, Unique Imperial Perfection, Unique Miracles Youth Program, Untouchable Unity, West Philadelphia Conestoga Angels, West Powelton Steppers, and Youth of east Logan. And such union-affiliated groups as PHILAPOSH (Philadelphia Area Project for Occupational Safety and Health), CLUW (Coalition of Labor Union Women), and JLC (Jewish Labor Committee).
John Greer, co-chair of the Tri-State labor day Parade Committee, opened the program by asking those gathered to say the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag, and to take a moment of silence “for all our troops that are in harm’s way, who are prisoners of war, who are killed in action or missing in action, and all the people who are suffering unjustly, not only in the United States, but all over this globe.”
Patrick Eiding, president of the Philadelphia AFL-CIO, spoke next and commended Greer “and all the committee members who do a great job all year to put this together, and of course my staff over at the AFL-CIO.”
A musical performance was made by Daniel Rudholme, who performed at the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival a play, Sweet Bye and Bye, on the life of Joe Hill, the labor singer who helped build up the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in the era before the First World War.
Eiding spoke next of the Labor movement’s theme for 2008, “Turn Around America:” “We’ve got to take America back,” he said “for working people.” The proposed Employee Free Choice Act, he added, “give people a chance to belong to a union, who want to belong. We’ve got to get that passed” in Congress. Eiding spoke if his meeting with Democratic Vice-Presidential candidate Senator Joe Biden, and said, “if (Barack) Obama is elected, (signing the bill) is the first thing on the agenda. The Employee Free Choice Act allows us to do what we do best, organize people who want representation.”
Health care, added Eiding, is another important issue for the Labor movement: “We need health care for the fifty million people who don’t have it…when they talk about the Right to Life, what right do the kids who are dying because they can’t go to the hospital have?” Another concern, said Eiding, was the “Free Trade agreements” such countries as Columbia, where labor organizers have been killed for their work.
Eiding and Greer presented Kenny Washington of the Laborer’s District Council for his work as a marshal for the parade and festival.
Greer spoke of the work of Dan Ezzio, an activist with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT), who passed away recently. Ezzio, said Greer, “was known as Mister Labor Day in the PFT, and he was involved in making sure that the schools got the information to get their children involved in the art contest,” for buttons and posters for the Labor day event; “These buttons,” added Greer, “were created by children from high schools” in the Philadelphia School District. Greer presented awards to the students who won the art contest.
The winners of the 2008 Labor Art Work:
In the button competition, fist place went to Jacky Yang, second place to Linda Mak, third place to Brittany Davis. In the poster competition, the first prize went to John Khvang, the second prize to Madaline Ballard, and the third prize to Lauren Sandler.
Jerry Jordon, President of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, said commemorating Ezzio, “We have wonderful memories of Dan and his work, and his work will continue. You were able to meet the young men who won the art contest award, and we make the commitment in the federation, that that tribute to Dan will continue each year.” Jordan added that the PFT executive board will award a scholarship for a graduating senior.
Rick Bloomingdale, secretary-treasurer of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, said to the crowd, “We’ve got sixty-four days before the election, and there could not be a more important election for working families than this one. This should not be about race, it should be about your pocketbooks. Every one of you here is a union member, or a family member of a union member, and we all have health care. The other side wants to tax your health care and income, which means that all those benefits you negotiate is going to be taxed as income, if John McCain and his crowd get elected. And that’s why we have to elect Barack Obama and Joe Biden … in order to make the economy fair to all workers.”
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter led the crowd in a chant for Obama, and referred to the devastation by Hurricane Katrina : “You saw three years ago,” he said, “of the incompetence of the current (Bush) administration, and the difficulties in dealing with the Republican party. We certainly know now that we need a Democrat in the White House.” Nutter also urged people to send their thoughts and prayers to current hurricane victims.
At Ten O’clock the parade started, down Christopher Columbus boulevard north to the festival area of Penn’s Landing, where there were performances by the Urban Guerrilla Band and Jimmy and the Parrots. Food and beverages were also served, and labor organizations set up tables of literature at a huge tent pavilion.

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