Skyline of Richmond, Virginia

May Day March and Rally in Philadelphia, by John O. Mason

05.04.15

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.

Black Friday Protest at South Philadelphia Wal-Mart, by John O. Mason

11.28.14

Members of Philadelphia’s Labor movement and its allies demonstrated in from of the Wal- Mart store on 1675 South Columbus Boulevard in South Philadelphia, on Friday, November 28, 2014.
The demonstrator included members of the National Writers Union, Democratic Socialists of America, Coalition of Labor Union women, and the American Postal Workers Union. The demonstrators handed patrons flyers demanding that Wal-Mart pay its employees a minimum of $15.00 an hour and benefits, an end to understaffing, allowance for full-time work, consistent schedules, and respect for pregnant felame employees.
The Reverend Michael Couch, from the Micah Leadership Council in Washington, DC and pastor of New Beginnings Church of Philadelphia, said he came to Philadelphia “to support the workers (in) raising the minimum wage from $9.00 to $15.00 an hour, to (show) corporate greed is not right, and that we need to be here to support our workers and the people who work for Wal-Mart, s o they can get a better wage so they can take care of their families.”

APRI Banquet at Spirit of Philadelphia by John O. Mason

09.21.14

The Philadelphia chapter of the A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI) held its annual banquet and awards ceremony on board the Spirit of Philadelphia, on Friday, September 19, 2014.

The organization was founded by A. Philip Randolph, the United State’s leading African American trade unionist, who, with Chandler Owen, founded the magazine The Messenger advocated Democratic Socialism. After the race riots of 1919, Randolph and Owen founded the national Association for the Promotion of Labor Unionism Among Negros. Porters of Pullman railroad cars asked Randolph to help them organize a union of sleeping car porters, thus founded the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. After a twelve-year struggle against the Pullman company, the BSLP won a contract with the company, the first won by a predominately Black union. With the assistance of Bayard Rustin, Randolph organized the March on Washington of August 1963, where the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King gave his famous “I have a dream” speech.

The honorees were:

Kathy Black, past President of the Philadelphia chapter of the Coalition of Labor Union women (CLUW) and Health and Safety Director of AFSCME District Council 47;
Sherman Harris, Assistant to the President of AFSCME District Council 33;
and Ken Washington, Director of Government Relations of LIUNA District Council.

The President’s Award was presented to Elizabeth Glass, of the PhiladelphiaFederation of Teachers.

Philadelphia Commemorates Workers Memorial Day

05.11.14

by John O. Mason

Members of Philadelphia’s Labor community honored workers killed or injured on the job at a commemorative breakfast, held at Sheet Metal Workers Local 19 Hall, 1301 South Columbus Blvd., on Friday, April 25, 2014.

The event was sponsored by the Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO and the Philadelphia Area Project for Occupational Safety and Health (PHILAPOSH).

Kathy Black, Health and Safety Director of AFSCME District Council 47 and Chair of the PHILAPOSH Board, welcomed everyone, and the Reverend Colleen M. Butler prayed the blessing over the food. Kathy Black gave a special welcome to the families of workers killed on the job recently-Jeff Davis, Scott Shaw, Thomas Hetrick, Richie Brady, Kevin Sparks, Joseph Matejik, Anne Bryan, and Roseline Conteh.

Pat Eiding, President of the Philadelphia AFL-CIO, said, “Our work is really ahead of us” in advocacy for workers’ safety. Pointing out that the Philadelphia AFL-CIO office was across the street from the building that collapsed at 22nd and Market streets in June 2013, and which resulted in people’s deaths, Eiding said, “We as Labor people know that was an accident ready to happen from the day the demolition started. We tried to send that message across the city, but typically, the people (of) organized Labor, for some reason or another, are looked on as troublemakers instead of problem solvers. That’s certainly a shame, because we have a lot to offer.” Due to union representation and training, said Eiding, “we’ll be able to go home the way we left the house this morning.”

If one was to go through the man part of Philadelphia or the neighborhoods, added Eiding, one “can see the mess of the (building) contractors, with some pieces of scaffolding on three legs and a board holding up the fourth leg, and nobody paying attention…As bad as it is for those workers, people in the community suffer because of that.”

Barbara Rahke, PHILAPOSH Director, said of this year’s program, “This year, it was very obvious to us that the connection between workplace safety, workplace health, and public health and safety are connected. This is an old issue that we’ve been talking about for a very long time. Communities around refineries (have been) working with workers inside the refineries to make sure the communities were safe. The environmental justice movement has been built around that.”

Rahke added that there would be a focus on the families of workers killed on the job, “the families who have suffered,” she said, “in ways that I can only imagine.” Rahke commended the work of Holly Shaw, PHILAPOSH’s outreach person to the families of workers killed on the job, and whose husband, Scott, was killed falling off a barge in the Schuylkill River.

Jerry Roseman, Director of Environmental Science and Occupational Health and Safety for the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers Health and Welfare Fund, spoke of his work with several other unions along with PFT, saying, “I’ve chosen to work with unions, workers, and the pubic for more than thirty years, because of my firm belief that those who are directly exposed to hazardous (material) have an absolute right to know about those hazardous conditions, and they have the right to participate in designing and implementing those measures to prevent their own injuries, illnesses, or worse. I’m proud to be able to add my voice to the voices of so many others today who are fighting to eliminate workplace health and safety hazards that impact on the lives of so many of us.”

Roseman called the building collapse on Market Street last year “a catastrophic example of the connection between public safety and workers’ safety.” But, he added, “there are many other situations, even if less immediately devastating, that put workers and the public at great risk.

“Sand-blasting and high-speed sawing and cutting of sitting stone and cement block,” added Roseman, “can pose serious silica dust hazards to workers and to the public. Improperly controlled lead removal, or removal and demolition work in buildings with asbestos, also result in exposures that cause sickness and death. These types of exposures are much too common, and demonstrate that even the less obvious and unseen hazards must be recognized and controlled. Unlike a fall from a roof, or a bridge, or a scaffolding, where the hazard and direct result are clear, what these health hazard situations have in common is not just the workers and the public are put at risk of developing cancer or respiratory diseases, like asthma, silicosis, and asbestosis, but that these diseases can take years before they show up, making it harder to connect the cause and the effect, and sometimes difficult to convince employers and building owners to do the right thing.”

The keynote speaker for the event was Jordan Barab, Deputy Secretary of Labor for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), who commended the staff, volunteers, and officers of PHILAPOSH for their work, along with the regional OSHA staff; “These are the people,” he said, “who work their butts off every day, including weekends and nights, to make sure workers are safe in this country,” and he encouraged everyone in the audience to work with them.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act, which created OSHA, Barab said, “was passed in 1970, with one very simple premise, (that) workers have the right to a safe work place, and employers have a responsibility to maintain a safe work place.” Of course, he added, “It’s not that simple, it requires work on our part every single day. To make sure that promise comes true.”

During the past year, added Barab, “We had the shut down of the federal government, and sequestration, it’s been rough for everybody to do the kind of work that we need to do, and we had to cancel a lot of events” with PHILAPOSH, but the OSHA main office and field operations continued working; Barab spoke of OSHA inspectors in Ohio, who found “a bunch of workers on top of a building with no fall protection.” The inspectors confronted the workers’ employer, who told the agents, “I’m really sorry about that, I didn’t think OSHA was on the job this week.”

“That tells you something about,” added Barab, “certain companies in this country, and it tell you something about the importance of having a watchdog agency that can make sure that employers do what they’re supposed to be doing.” Barab added that OSHA has been criticized to carrying out too much or too little enforcement, for dong regulatory action and “sub-regulatory” actions, for helping unions organize, for targeting conservative activists, for being “at war” with family farms; “We’ve even been criticized for criticizing our own out of date chemical standards,” he added, and “we’ve been criticized for issuing press releases that are critical of companies that break the law and cause the death of workers. Alll that criticism means to me, is that we’re doing something right.”

The day’s program ended with a funeral procession down Columbus Boulevard to Penn’s Landing, accompanied by Brian Widelitz playing the bagpipes. Rabbi Mordechai Liebling led a memorial service for workers killed on the job in the past year; it concluded with the reading of names of slain workers, while participants tossed roses into the Delaware River while Widelitz played “Amazing Grace.”

Philadelphia APRI Awards Banquet

09.29.11

By John O. Mason

The Philadelphia chapter of the A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI) held its annual awards banquet aboard the yacht Spirit of Philadelphia, on Friday, September 23, 2011.
The Institute was named after A. Philip Randolph, the most prominent African-American trade-union leader in the United States. In the 1920’s he organized the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, which battled for over a decade with the Pullman Sleeping Car Company over wages and benefits. After the merger of the AFL and the CIO in the 1950’s, Randolph became the first African-American Vice-President of the merged organization. In 1963, with the assistance of Bayard Rustin, Randolph organized the March on Washington, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous “I Have A Dream” speech.
The evening’s awardees were Frank Snyder, Secretary-Treasurer of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO; Cathy Scott, President of AFSCME District Council 47; Andrew Robinson, Secretary-Treasurer, LIUNA Local 332; and John Johnson, President of TWU Local 234.
Richard Womack Jr., President of the Philadelphia APRI and Northeast Regional Representative, greeting those in attendance, saying, “A. Philip Randolph was always in the middle of a struggle. And today, we are also in the middle of a struggle. We know how they’re taking away our collective bargaining, how they’re doing away with the teachers in the public school system. We look at how they’re talking about cutting Social security and Medicare. What does that tell you? We’re under attack, not just union members, but the community members are also under attack. We must continue to fight, and we must continue to band together, and hold strong, and hold politicians accountable, for that which is right for our community.”
The evening’s awardees, added Womack, “stood on the battlefield, they fought for what is right, and they continue to fight for what is right…I thank them for being the great leaders that they are.”
Womack also told of the work of Rosina Tucker, wife of one of the members of Randolph’s Sleeping Car Porters union, and an organizer for the union; she was “the backbone of the Sleeping Car Porters. when her husband was out there trying to organize, he was fired from his job. Rosina Tucker, being the strong woman that she was,” went to the Pullman office and said, “You put my husband back on his job, or I’ll be back.” The next day, the husband was back on his job. Womack praised the work of women in the Labor movement, adding, “They make things happen.”

Panel Discussion on the Need for Unions

06.13.11

by John O. Mason
“I (blank) Unions” was the theme of a panel discussion held at the Starlight Ballroom, in the fourth floor of the main branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia, 1900 Vine Street in Philadelphia, on Wednesday, June 01, 2011.
The discussion was sponsored by the Young Women’s committee of the Philadelphia chapter of the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW).
Emily Randle, Chair of the Young Women’s Committee of Philadelphia CLUW, began the program, saying about the committee, “We’ve been around since 2008, and we meet monthly to talk about the campaigns we’re working on, and see if we can help each other out. We also have these quarterly workshops,” covering such topics as fundraising, women running for union offices.
Randle spoke of her work with unions, and about “progressive people that I know who want to like unions and who don’t get unions, and who don’t know what we do and why we do it. They think that we’re ’big Labor,’ and they think that we’re mobby.” Randle told of how she got into the Labor movement, “through a very grass-roots effort for security guards…for me, it really changed my perspective on a lot of things, the way life is in this country, the way life is throughout the world, and it’s a message I really want to share with everyone I know, especially people who want to understand, who just haven’t been given the opportunity to talk about that.”
Melina Velis, of the Media Mobilizing Project (MMP), spoke of the group as, “a group that is dedicated to giving people, like union members, a voice and the skills to tell their own stories in the media.” Velis spoke of one of MMP’s programs, “Labor Justice Radio,” of a media training program coming up, where “We work with union members to give them the skills to produce radio pieces, and news about what’s going on in union struggles around the city and things that affect working people.”
Jackie Silver, a social worker at Temple University Hospital, was the first speaker. She was also president of Temple Allied Professionals (TAP) during the strike of workers at Temple Hospital. “I am a social worker,” she began, “and by training and by nature, you would think that we’re the first people to run around and advocate for ourselves, but we’re not, we take care of other people, we take care of our clients, but rarely do we do things that are in the best interest of us as individuals.” Professionally trained people, said Silver, are difficult to recruit into unions, because “life works for us. We have set schedules, we have offices, and we don’t tend to be what we would call ‘troublemakers’. So we don’t usually participate in unions or union activities, but I was a dues-paying member, because I come from a family of people who belonged to a union.”
Things began to change at Temple Hospital, said Silver, and “management started to do a lot of things that we thought were petty, inappropriate, things that you just shouldn’t do to workers, and we started demanding more of our rights as workers, and we’re just having the door closed right in our faces…We finally decided, ’We’re not going to take it anymore,” and she and her coworkers decided “to stand up as a group and say, ‘We’re going to demand our rights.’ We did that, and people were surprised, we got what we wanted. It was an issue of getting people to band together for a common cause.”
To Silver, a union, “is a group of people who have a lot of the same interests and needs getting together and standing tall and saying ‘we can do this’, because we can accomplish this as a group, it’s hard to do that on your own.” Silver remarked that since the strike at Temple Hospital, people learned the value of unions, that “We know those people are going to get out on the street, they’re going to mobilize people, they’re going to stand there and be heard.”
Dina Yarmus, a member of the Young Women’s Committee, spoke next. She is a member of UNITE/HERE Local 274, and active in the campaign for Earned Sick Leave in Philadelphia and the Media Mobilizing Project. An employee of the Radisson Warwick Hotel, Yarmus said the question of the need for unions “has really brought a lot of much needed attention to the question of democracy…and to whether or not a workplace is going to be a space for democracy in our society or not.”
Yarmus recalled, “I’ve worked in nonunion and union (work) hotels, my own sister works in the restaurant industry, in a nonunion workplace…(the sister) was fired from a job because a guest complained that she didn’t like the ‘sass’ that she gave her. My sister worked at this job for two years, with a nearly flawless record, and people loved her, people would ask for her to wait on them.
“Similarly,” added Yarmus, “I also think I do a good job, and I have customers that ask for me. Five times, managers the way they are, they tried to write me up on absolutely bogus accounts, (like) random guest complaints they couldn’t prove, not able to do three jobs at one time, absolutely bogus nonsense they couldn’t prove. Five times they tried to do that. And each time, because I had a union, I was able to organize (her) coworkers, to fight back, to prove there was no basis for that. They had to throw it out, and I still have my job today, a job that, with thirty hours a week, I have full health care coverage; a job that has a pension for when I retire, that I invested in after five years; a job where I have the ability to fight issues that may come up, if they’re unjust.”
It is not common, said Yarmus, to find unions in the hotel industry or other low-wage work; “Are we going to have workplaces in this country,” she asked, “be democratic places, places where we exercise democracy? Are they going to be places where people fight people can fight unfair staffing levels (and) getting fired on the spot, (and) people fight for health care in the context of working for multi-million dollar corporations? Are they going to be able to fight for retirement plans? Are they going to be able to fight for decent wages? I think they should be able to, and I think that’s why a union is relevant at the moment, and has been.”
Yarmus said that union members could build on the history of the struggle of the Labor movement, adding, “The history we benefit from is from a time when the Labor movement in this country fought for the interests of an entire class of people, and an entire standard of living. Think about what you might benefit from, unemployment benefits for when you lose your job, welfare rights, public education, child labor laws, Social Security, weekends, forty hour work weeks, health care coverage, pensions or any type of retirement plans, health and safety standards, OSHA, anything like that. All of that wasn’t just given to anyone. Those were all things that people fought for, and the Labor movement was at the forefront for all those struggles.
“Labor unions are under attack in the United States,” added Yarmus, “and internationally, but there’s a reality that Labor unions, as we know them today, and in the next ten years, might not exist. They’re under attack, we see what happened in Wisconsin.”
Megan Malachi, who is active in organizing her fellow charter school teachers, followed. She has been working with the Alliance of Charter School Employees, which is affiliated with the AFT and is a teacher at the Media Technology Charter School. “I’m …in the process,” she said, “of forming a union (in her charter school), we don’t have our union yet.” Malachi and her colleagues “have been doing this for about seven months, and it’s been extremely challenging I work at a place where I’m what you would call an ‘at-will’ employee, so…I basically have no rights, I can be fired at the whim of the administration, for anything they feel like I’m doing incorrectly. I really don’t have any type of recourse to fight for myself, as people who are in a union do.
“At my school,” added Malachi, “we also deal with a lot of professional disrespect. From day to day, our job descriptions change, we can be told ‘you need to do this, I need you to cover this class, I need you to stay late at night until six or seven o’clock to handle some type of student activity’ that you never signed up for. For lack of a better term, it’s just a really big mess.”
After she joined the Alliance of Charter School Employees, Malachi said, “I found there were a lot of things about unions that I didn’t know.” One of the fallacies about teachers’ unions, she said, “is that teachers’ unions keep bad teachers around. I found that’s really not true at all. I think the biggest thing that keeps bad teachers around is the failure of administration, and the fact that they don’t go through the process to hold those bad teachers accountable.”
Questions were taken from the audience.

Rick Bloomingdale, Awards Presented at Philadelphia AFL-CIO Council Meeting

10.23.10

October 14, 2010

Rick Bloomingdale, Awards Presented at Philadelphia AFL-CIO Council Meeting

by John O. Mason

Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President Rick Bloomingdale addressed the monthly delegates’ meeting of the Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO, held in Salon 10 on the Sheridan Hotel, 17th and Race streets, on Wednesday, October 13, 2010.

Also at this meeting, awards were presented for participants in the Philadelphia Labor Day parade, held on September 6, as well as certificates for trade union activists who took courses in the Comey Institute, a labor –education program held at Saint Joseph’s University.

Bloomingdale spoke to the delegates, commending the work of his predecessor William George, and, saying of himself and the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO’s new Secretary-Treasurer Frank Snyder, “We want to build on that. Too often, we’ve seen Labor being attacked and attacked, and we know that there are two ways to get into the middle class in this country, joining a union, and there’s education, and a lot of the time, both work hand in hand.”

Bloomingdale spoke of the need for workers to attain political power, “which helps us get things done” Union density has declined over the years, he warned, “ and as a result, we’ve seen our political power decline.” In spite of getting labor-friendly congress members elected, “we could not get labor law reform passed, we could not get the Employee Free Choice Act (passed), because (congress-people) from states that don’t have strong unions went (against) us.” That means, Bloomingdale added, “that in states where we do have strong unions, those politicians continue to support us, and as we grow our density, hopefully that will go out in other parts in the country.” Bloomingdale urged that the labor movement continue to work for its allies and against its enemies in Congress.

Comey Students Who Received Certificates for Spring 2010 Classes Graduation

Certificate for completing 16 classes (to complete the course)
Sean P. McLaughlin

Costing Out a Labor Contract
Patricia Abraham
Daniel Duffy
Jether Freeman
Linda Gibson
Gerald Hunley
Joseph Lilly
James S. Matthews
Beverly Orange
Joseph Rispo

Grievance & Arbitration
Patricia Abraham
John W. Brown
Kay Buffamonte
Mary Foxworth
Thomas A. Gallagher
Gerald Hunley
Michelle Jamison
Heather Lane
Charmaine E. Lutz
Charles Moore
Joseph Rispo
Margaret Snead
Jim Whitehead

Legends of Labor
Patricia Abraham
Steve Chervenka
Mary Foxworth
Jether Freeman
Thomas A. Gallagher
Joseph Jacoby JR.
Joseph Lilly
James S. Matthews
Sean P. McLaughlin
Charles Moore
Joseph Rispo
Jim Whitehead

Public Speaking
Andre Butler
Matthew Fink
Mary Foxworth
Allen Hasara
Ann Kirkpatrick
James S. Matthews
Charles Moore
Nadina Patterson
Jim Whitehead

Representations of Labor in Popular Fiction & Film
Matthew Fink
Mary Foxworth
Jether Freeman
Joseph Lilly
James S. Matthews
Sean P. McLaughlin
Charles Moore
Nadina Patterson
Joseph Rispo
Jim Whitehead

Survey of Labor Law
Patricia Abraham
Andre Butler
Vanessa Fields
Jether Freeman
Ann Kirkpatrick
Joseph Rispo
Steven H. VanDuyne


Winning for our Members and Building Union Power: The Art & Science of Contract Campaigns

Michelle Jamison
Joseph Lilly
Charmaine E. Lutz
Sean P. McLaughlin

Workers’ Compensation
John E. Johnson
Sean P. McLaughlin
Angela K. Miller
Charles Moore
Joseph Rispo

Computer Applications for Trade Unionists
Joseph Jacoby Jr.
Sean P. McLaughlin
Celestine R. Stanford

Dedication of labor Monument in Philadelphia

10.03.10

by John O. Mason

The Labor Monument: Philadelphia’s Tribute of the American Worker was formally dedicated in Elmwood Park, 71st Street and Buist Avenue in Southwest Philadelphia, on Friday, October 1, 2010.
A number of elected officials and union activists attended the event, including State Senators Tina Tartaglione and Vincent Hughes.
The monument is a circle of seven bronze tables, designed like old union buttons by the artist John Kindness, from Belfast, Northern Ireland. The bronze tables honored:
Eugene V. Debs, organizer for the American Railway Union and longtime activist for social justice;
Child Labor, with the quote by William D. Haywood: “The worst thief is he who steals the playtime of children.”;
The Industrial workers of the World (IWW), organized in 1905, who left a legacy of songs. The table had the quote by the IWW singer and martyr Joe Hill: “”Don’t waste time mourning, organize.”;
Bread and Roses, commemorating the 1912 strike of textile workers in Lawrence, Massachusetts, honoring the work of women in the Labor movement;
The organizing of the United Farm Workers in 1966, with their slogan, “Si, se puede!” (Yes, we can!);
The Memphis sanitation workers strike in 1968, which Martin Luther King Jr. supported and where he was assassinated, which strikers holding sign saying “I am a man”;
Karen Silkwood, who was killed under suspicious circumstances while trying to report unsafe working conditions at a nuclear plant.
Charles E. Mather III, President of the Board of Trustees of the Fairmount Park Art Association (FPAA), opened the program, saying, “Years ago, I studied a guy named Joseph Hilstom, (also) known as Joe Hill,” and he read the lyrics of the IWW song, “I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill”:
I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night,
Alive as you or me
Says I, “But Joe, you’re ten years dead,”
“I never died,” says he
“I never died,” says he
“In Salt Lake, Joe,” says I to him,
Him standing by my bed,
“They framed you on a murder charge,”
Says Joe, “But I ain’t dead,”
Says Joe, “But I ain’t dead.”
“The copper bosses killed you, Joe,
They shot you, Joe,” says I.
“Takes more than guns to kill a man,”
Says Joe, “I didn’t die,”
Says Joe, “I didn’t die…”
Peggy Bach, Director of the FPAA, explained the Association’s role in the monument: “The Association began a project known as the New Landmarks program, and this program brought together artists and communities to create new permanent public artworks for communities in Philadelphia…We asked communities what they wanted to leave behind for future generations, and the Friends of Elmwood Park were really clear, they wanted to honor the working class.”
The artist commissioned to create the art, said Bach, was John Kindness, whose father was a shipyard worker. “He understands the struggles of the working class,” added Bach, “but, most important, his work is really humanistic, it pays very close attention to everyday life and everyday detail.” Bach commended the Friends of Elmwood Park, Town Watch 90-15 , and Police District 12, saying, “They are a model for what people can do when they work together to improve their neighborhood.”
State Representative Ronald Waters said, “I’m so proud to be here today to be part of this celebration.” Acknowledging his state legislative colleagues in the audience, waters said, “When people come to you and ask you for a grant, and want you to support their grant application to make sure it moves through the process, sometimes you don’t always know the outcome or how well spent it was, you only hope it’s going towards a worthwhile project. Today, we get to all be witnesses of how this grant (for the Labor Monument) was processed. We can all say this grant was spent on a worthwhile project.”
Cathy Brady, member of Friends of Elmwood Park and activist/organizer for SEIU, who advocated for the Labor Monument for over twenty years, said, “All of you know how excited I am…For many years we talked about this thing (the Labor Monument) happening, and people used to look at me with sympathetic eyes, like, ‘Oh, that poor girl thinks this is going to happen.’” Brady commended her fellow neighbors around Elmwood Park for “keeping this park clean, keeping it looking good, making it a suitable spot for a monument.” Brady also thanks the unions and labor bodies for financial support for the project.
Artist John Kindness said of his first draft on the Monument, “I started out with the stuff (products) that was made in Philadelphia, but that stuff got interpreted as being something to do with the companies and the bosses, and not with the people who made the stuff.” Kindness recalled the stories he learned of Joe Hill and of Sacco and Vanzetti, and the labor songs of Bob Dylan. “It was Dylan,” said Kindness, “ who opened up huge vistas of vernacular song and music in this country. A lot of those songs were about gamblers, outlaws, love affairs and murders, but there were also a lot of (songs) about strikes, lockouts, scabs.. It was quite a lot of stuff in there for me to get started with, and it took off from that point.” With a banjo, Kindness played a song by Ed McFirt, an English songwriter and miner, “who says things more eloquently than I can.”
Accepting the monument on behalf of the City of Philadelphia was Michael DiBerardinis, Commissioner of Parks and recreation.

Support the Jewish Labor Committee

07.25.10

Support the Jewish Labor Committee

by John O. Mason

The Jewish Labor Committee is the Jewish voice within the Labor movement, and the Labor voice within the Jewish community, serving as a liaison between the two causes, sharing each side’s values. It was founded in February 1934 by Yiddish-speaking trade unionists, plus members of the Workmen’s Circle, the United Hebrew Trades, and the Jewish Socialist Bund, in order to combat the rise of Fascism in Europe and America.

In recent years, JLC has been active in the fight for the rights of immigrant workers, and has protested the abusive labor practices found in the Agroprocessors meat processing plant in Iowa, supported the Republic Windows and Doors workers in Chicago, and has worked for dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian trade unionists. One of JLC’s programs is the Labor Seder, linking the freedom struggle of the ancient Israelites to current and past Labor struggles.

Recently, the Philadelphia JLC has lost its funding from the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, which jeopardizes its ability to conduct its programs. Other JLC chapters may be facing this plight. If you want to help JLC, contact the main JLC office:

Jewish Labor Committee
25 East 21st Street
New York, NY 10010
(212)477-0707
www.jewishlabor.org

Philadelphia CLUW Honors Women Active In The Community

06.23.10

Philadelphia CLUW Honors Women Active in the Community
by John O. Mason

The Philadelphia Chapter of the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW) held its Working Women’s Awareness Week Awards Reception at the assembly hall of Workers United, 22 South 22nd Street, on Monday, June 7, 2010.
Kathy Black, Philadelphia CLUW President, thanked the attendees for coming “to support the work of CLUW and to celebrate the achievement of some very impressive working women, from the Labor movement and our allies in the community.”
The awardees were Willie Black, Coordinator of Messages From Mom and Dad; Karen Bojar, who recently retired as president of Philadelphia national Organization for Women (NOW); Cecilia Lynch, activist for the Philadelphia Security Officers Union; Danielle Newsome, Organizer for the Cure CVS Campaign; and Barbara Rahke, Director of the Philadelphia Area Project for Occupational Safety and Health (PHILAPOSH), who won the Union Woman of the Year Award.
Black introduced Karen See, the new National CLUW President, who said, “I know that with your help, I know we can change CLUW into a vibrant organization nationwide. Fortunately, we have strong chapters in Philadelphia, which I hold us (as a model). When somebody says, ‘I want to organize a CLUW chapter,’ I say, ‘You want to be like Philadelphia.’”
Continuing about the Philadelphia CLUW chapter, See said, “You guys are doing a great job here, I like to clone some of your leaders and take them to some other states with me. We are coming back, there’s a new excitement about CLUW, and I feel it, and I see it everywhere I go.”
Janet Ryder, Pennsylvania State CLUW President, said of CLUW‘s recent activities, “Men, believe it or not, women get the job done…We’re a very diverse group, and we’re very pro-active, and we’re very passionate about what we do. The women (honored) tonight are being honored because of their passion and their service to the community.”
Ryder introduced Willie Black of Messages from Mom and Dad, an organization that videotapes prison inmates reading stories to their children, to maintain the connection between them. In accepting the award, Black spoke of her work, “talking to the inmates, and having them hear back from their children (and) of the service that we give them.” Black said her group sends survey cards to the children asking about the DVDs of their parents reading to them; “We have gotten,” she said, “some really heartwarming responses, most of them saying they don’t get an opportunity to see their parents, so this is their visit to their parents.”
Black said that Messages From Mom and Dad was “a collaboration of civic, social, religious, and political organizations….We go twice a week (to correctional facilities for men and women) and we videotape the men and women reading a book (for their children),” and they play the video to the children; “They are…giving a message of love to their child, and they’re encouraging their children to continue to read…So this has also become literacy type of project.”
Karen Bojar received the next award, saying, “Many of you know, the Philadelphia chapter of NOW and the Philadelphia chapter of CLUW have had a very strong working relationship over the past eight years.” Bojar added that Kathy Black, who is President of Philadelphia CLUW, is also Vice-President of Philadelphia NOW, saying to Black, “the partnership that we have has been certainly something that you have so much to do with.
“Women have made enormous strides over the past fifty years,” added Bojar, “but those gains have not been shared equally…The job of the Feminist movement is to focus laser-like on issues affecting working women.”
The next award went to Cecilia Lynch, who was active in the Philadelphia Security Officers Union (PSOU), working with Philadelphia Jobs With Justice (JWJ), in their organizing of security workers in the firm Allied Barton. “I want everybody in this room,” she said to the audience, “especially Kathy Black, all the people in CLUW, everybody involved with Jobs With Justice, how much I and the other officers appreciate with you did for us. It’s been many years, it’s been a long time, and we never could have done it without everyone here.” Lynch said that later in June the union would go into negotiations with Allied Barton for a contract.
The next award went to Danielle Kamali Newsome, who worked under Change To Win to head its Cure CVS campaign, protesting the drug store chain’s practices of locking up condoms in low income neighborhoods, and of selling expired medicines and baby formulas. Newsome thanked Philadelphia CLUW for being “one of the first organizations to sign on to the Cure CVS campaign. CLUW, along with NOW and Jobs With Justice, were really integral in getting everything that we won through that campaign, being out in rallies in the rain, going to City Council.”
Following Newsome, Barbara Rahke received the award for 2010 Union Woman of the Year. In her remarks, Rahke introduced her stepdaughters, saying, “In our work… we have people we love, who, every day, whether we see them or not, they remind us why we do what we do.
“I do consider myself an organizer,” Rahke added, “and as an organizer, your goal is to put yourself out of a job, if we do what we’re supposed to do, and we’re helping motivate people to find their inner power, and their inner strength, and to step forward and take leadership, then our job is done. I feel like I’m getting an award for just finishing the job, which we try to do all the time.”

Philadelphia Unionists Commemorate Workers’ Memorial Day

05.15.10

Workers’ Memorial Day Held in Philadelphia
by John O. Mason

Jordan Barab, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor in charge of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), was the keynote speaker at the 22nd Annual Workers Memorial Day breakfast and march, held at the Sheet Metal Workers Local 19 Hall, 1301 South Columbus Boulevard, on Friday, April 30, 2010.

The event was co-sponsored by Philadelphia AFL-CIO and the Philadelphia Area Project for Occupational Safety and Health (PHILAPOSH).

The event began with the playing of a video, produced by Brave New Films, titled “16 Deaths a Day,” about the number of workplace deaths that take place each day. The invocation was given by the Reverend Colleen M. Butler, of Campbell AME Church.

Tables were reserved for the families of workers in the Philadelphia area killed on the job-Kevin Sparks, Richie Brady, Thomas Hetrick, George Hamner, Fred Ware, Charles John McKelvey, Jeff Davis, Scott Shaw, William Palmer, Jeffery Martin.

Terry Gallagher, President of PHILPOSH, welcomed those who attended, and he recognized PHILAPOSH board members and staff-Director Barbara Rahke, Nicole Charles, and Bonnie Logue.

Patrick Eiding, President of the Philadelphia AFL-CIO, greeted the families of deceased workers, saying, “We welcome you here. I wish it was on some other occasion, but we’re (happy to ) stand with you and recognize those folks you lost. “ Eiding also recognized Holly, Shaw, wife to Scott Shaw and head of a support committee for workers killed on the job.

“As always,” added Eiding, “Workers Memorial Day is supported my workers in Philadelphia, in a very strong and emotional way at many times. Today, there are over fifty local unions here, and councils representing twenty-two different national unions.” Eiding recognized such public officials at US Congressman Pat Murphy, Pennsylvania State Senator Tina Tartaglione and State Representative LeAnna Washington, Philadelphia City Councilman Bill Greenley, and students of Mercy Vocational High School.

“We went through eight terrible years” of the Bush administration, said Eiding, “ and we have a President right now who has shown more courage for working people, and will show more affiliation for working people, than any President we’ve had since Franklin Roosevelt. We need to stand up and cheer (Obama), and we need to work in 2010 (In the congressional races), to make sure we don’t lose the people who supported him.” Eiding urged participants to work to elect pro-labor candidates to support Obama’s agenda, such as tightening OSHA rules to better protect workers from fatalities. Eiding stated the purpose of the Workers Memorial Day event, “to recognize the name of one hundred and thirty workers who have died from work related injuries and illnesses in the past twelve months in the tri-state area.”

Barab recalled the time he sat down with AFSCME members, to “listen to them, to listen to the kind of work they do, (what) they have to face every day…(T)hat is the basis of” his work in Washington, to help workers.

Occupational safety, added Barab, is a “very difficult (topic) for American workers,” and he mentioned the deaths of the workers in the Big Branch mine in West Virginia and in the off-shore oil rig off the Gulf Coast. The news media, he added, does not mention the workers’ “friends, their families, and their coworkers,” along with workers who have died from diseases from their worksites and received injuries from their jobs; “Their lives are irrevocably changed,” he said, and he commended the families of workers killed on the job for meeting with US Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis.

Barab cited “a disturbing pattern of deadly neglect in this country” among corporations in terms of worker safety, adding “Paying fines and penalties is just the cost of doing business, but it’s really the cost of putting profits before people. Today we’re here to say that price is too high.” Workers getting killed on the job, added Barab, “get forgotten, they get neglected, and that’s why we have such a fight to get through legislation in Congress, to make sure everybody notices and knows what happens to workers in a dangerous workplace, and how many lose their lives.”

America has, Barab added, “a workplace safety and health crisis,” and he called for revising the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA); “We have heard stories about how the appeals process has been log-jammed, how justice has been delayed, how tougher enforcement has been blocked, how workers continue to be exposed to potentially lethal hazards.” Penalties for violating OSHA regulations, said Barab, “are barely noticeable, they’re so low.” Employers, he added, “are basically gambling with their workers’ lives, and we know what happens when someone gambles, someone always loses.”

Sean Gerie, General Chairman of the Commuter Rail System division of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees, spoke of the work his union’s members do: “We build, maintain and inspect the nation’s railroads-the tracks, the buildings, and the bridges,” he said, “we represent workers throughout the country on railroads. We have done so since 1887. Our members work in the most grueling conditions, extreme heat and humidity, bone-chilling cold, rain, sleet. Snow and ice create added responsibilities for us. While the riding public sleeps, we clear the snow and ice from railroad switches, station platforms, and parking lots. In order to meet the physical and mental demands of the job, it takes a certain kind of person.

“On November fifth, 2009,” added Gerie, “I received news that hit home. Kevin Leroy Sparks was the kind of person who gave of himself…He was a man who served his country in the United States Marine Corps, prior to his career in the railroad. He gave every day to provide for his family, in a job, as I stated, is not for the faint of heart.” Kevin Sparks, a member of Local 2910 of BMWE, performed track inspection duties when he was struck and killed by a SEPTA train, “carrying passengers to their jobs and schools,” said Gerie, “during the morning rush hour…It was characteristic of Kevin to perish while he himself ensured the safety of others.”

Jim Savage, President of Local 10-1 of the United Steel Workers, spoke of the explosion at the Tesoro refinery Washington State on Good Friday, “which immediately killed three workers and sent four more to the hospital with severe burns over the majority of their bodies. All four of those workers eventually died of their injuries…Within hours of the explosion, the oil industry, through their mouthpiece the American Petroleum Institute, put out a statement applauding their safety record. OF course their were talking about personal safety, not process safety.”

After the explosion at the BP refinery in Texas City, Texas, said Savage, USW conducted a survey in all the refinery workers they represent in the US; “One or more of the root causes,” he said, “that lead to the tragedy in Texas City existed in over ninety percent of the facilities we represent.” OSHA also conducted a study of safety in refineries, and, said Savage, “the results were deplorable. More recently, our union began tracking every process safety incident in every facility we represent… a grassroots effort, operators, maintenance employees, writing it down when they see something, and we would gather all that information and get it to our safety department,” and the results were “shocking, stunning.”

Martin Brigham, an labor attorney in Philadelphia, spoke of the passing of attorney Robert Sloan, from cancer. “Our community,” said Brigham, “lost a famous advocate.” Twenty-five years earlier, said Brigham, “Bob Sloan and I first met, and we started working on the very first edition of Injured On The Job (a handbook published by PHILAPOSH for workers on their rights if they are injured). Over those twenty-nine years, Bob donated hundreds, if not thousands of hours to PHILAPOSH, giving advice to injured workers, and working constantly on revising (the handbook).” Bob Sloan, added Brigham, dedicated such work to the rights of injured workers.

Celeste Monforton, Assistant Professor at the School of Public Health and Health Sciences at George Washington University, declared “Philadelphia rocks!”, showing her appreciation for the city’s Labor movement. “I never had the privilege to have a union in any of my workplaces,” she added, “but I found the spirit of solidarity through two organizations; one is the American Public Health Association, (particularly) its health and safety section, which is a seven-hundred person strong organization of advocates, physicians, nurses, educators.” Her other “sisterhood of support and collective action,” said Monforton, “is the United Support and Memorial for Workplace Fatalities, an organization founded by Tammy Miser, who lost her brother in an aluminum dust explosion…I’m proud that two of our organization’s members, Holly Shaw and Tonya Ford, testified in the House and Senate earlier this week” in support of the Protecting America’s Workers Act.

Peggy Cohen spoke about her father-in-law, Fred Ware, 59 years old, who was killed in the Sago mine explosion in West Virginia in 2006. “My husband lost his father,” she said, “my children lost their grandfather, and my uncle lost his brother.” She spoke about the continuing accidents that have killed mine workers, adding, “our miners deserve better than this,” and how mine owners “have unpaid fines while miners continue to lose their lives.”

After the presentation, participants joined in a funeral procession in honor of workers killed on the job, led by Brian Widelitz playing the bagpipes. The procession ended at the Grand Plaza of Penn’s Landing, where Rabbi Mordechai Liebling read prayers and the 23rd Psalm. At the end of the program, participants lined up by the Delaware River and read the names of workers killed on the job in the Philadelphia area and threw roses into the river while Widelitz played “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes.

Philadelphia Labor Honors Workers Memorial Day

05.09.09

by John Mason

The Philadelphia Labor community commemorated workers killed on the job at the Workers’ Memorial Day breakfast, held at the Sheet Metal Workers’ hall, 1301 S. Christopher Columbus Boulevard, on Friday, April 24, 2009.

The event was sponsored by the Philadelphia Area Project for Occupational Safety and Health (PHILAPOSH) and the Philadelphia Central Labor Council AFL-CIO.

Terry Gallagher, President of the PHILAPOSH board, welcomed those in attendance, especially the families of workers killed in occupational accidents. Elizabeth McElroy, Assistant to the President of the Philadelphia AFL-CIO, Patrick Eiding, spoke and brought the greetings “from the 200,000 working men and women who belong to unions, who live and work in Philadelphia every day.”

Of the task of honoring workers killed on the job, McElroy said, “It’s something we have to do, unfortunately, we have to come together to honor those who gave their lives in the workplace. But we all look to the day when we (can) celebrate, because nobody gave their life in the workplace. Until that day comes, we’ll continue to fight and struggle for safety on the job.”

PHILAPOSH director Barbara Rahke said, “We are (here) to honor those who lost their lives by going to work every day. We’re also here to talk about change and the need to renew our desire to fight for safety for all workers on the job.” Rahke expressed her pleasure “that such a huge response once again has come out for this event.”

Nineteen different labor bodies, said Rahke, were represented in the breakfast, from such unions as AFSCME, Teamsters, Sheet Metal workers, UFCW, UNITE-HERE, Steel Workers, Chester County (PA) Central Labor Council, and UE, along with labor support groups, such as the Coalition of Labor Union Women, the New Jersey Work Environment Council, the Comey Institute at St. Joseph’s University, the Temple University’s School of Public Health, Philadelphia Area Labor Management (PALM), Jewish Labor Committee, Jobs With Justice, Center for Construction Research and Training, and attorneys who have worked to gain benefits for injured workers.

Rahke also introduced the families of workers killed on the job who attended the event -Jeff Davis, who died from an explosion at a refinery; Scott Shaw, who also died in a refinery; Jeffery Martin, who died in a fall at a construction site; John Roberts, who was crushed during a tree removal; Police Sergeant Stephen Liczbinski, who was killed trying to stop a robbery; Mathew Holmes; Richie Brady, who was fatally struck by an SUV at a construction site; and Gregory Martin.

The keynote speaker was US Representative Patrick Murphy (D-PA). Murphy said to the gathered labor activists, “I’m here to break bread with you,” and to the family of Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski, he said, “You continue to be in our thoughts and prayers, and we love you…with every fiber of our being.”

Murphy spoke of the first time he ran for Congress, and that the incumbent we ran against was well financed: “I said I’m going to do this,” Murphy recalled, “for the nineteen guys I served with in Iraq who never made it home.” Murphy commended the support he received from PHILAPOSH Broad member John Greer, “who gave me a chance when no one else would, they believed in me when no one else did.” Murphy added, “They believed in me because I was part of this family, those who join unions, folks who know what it’s like to wake up every day and work to make our country better.”

Murphy said that the United States is the greatest nation on the planet was “because of everyone in this room,” the working men and women in the nation: “Every day,” he said, “they wake up, put their clothes on and go to work, and try to make a better life for their families, and put food on their table (and) pay the bills. But they made America number one.”

Murphy mentioned the “tea party” anti-tax movement put on by the right wing, and of the involvement of the federal government in the economy, saying, “I believe in a limited government that says, ‘we need to be a proper referee to make sure that under capitalism, they don’t abuse the American family or the American worker.’” Murphy spoke of the need for regulating corporations, starting during the Industrial Revolution, “when nine or ten year olds were working sixty hours a week, and there was no environmental protection;” and the need for laws on occupational health and safety, minimum wage and child-labor laws, and environmental laws, “so that when you go fishing, and you want to make the fish for dinner that night, you don’t have to go to the hospital the next day; so that when you turn on your faucet and you take water out, it’s okay to drink.”

Speaking of his support for the right of workers to organize into unions, and for the Employee Free Choice Act, Murphy that the in Department of Labor each year, “There are twenty thousand cases brought up for wrongful termination by people in the workplace just trying to organize, just trying to exercise their constitutional right … (these are) wrongful firings because they’re trying to unionize.”

John DeFazio, Director of District 10 of the United Steel Workers, was the following speaker. “We are here today,” he said, “to remember those who have been injured and killed in the workplace. We want companies to be held accountable when they put profits ahead of workers’ health and safety.”

The past Bush II administration, said DeFazio, “did not prosecute ninety-three percent of the fatalities caused by willful violation of OSHA standards as criminal violations.” More American workers died last year on the job, he added, than during the 9-11 terrorist attacks, the Afghanistan war, and in the Iraq war.

DeFazio spoke about how business groups took out TV ads making false claims against the Employee Free Choice Act, saying, “When the National Labor Relations Act came in (during) 1935, workers always had the right to vote by secret ballot, or by card check… This changed in 1974, when the employer had the choice. All we’re trying to do now is make it an even, fair playing field, when the employees have that right again.” DeFazio then read a proclamation, from the Allegheny County (Pennsylvania) Council commemorating Workers Memorial Day in Allegheny County.

Dr. Arthur Frank, chair of the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at the School of Public Health of Drexel University, Frank raised the question, “What is an academic guy doing here? What kind of role do I have?” Frank recalled “sixty two years ago yesterday, my dad was killed on the job, while my mother was pregnant with me. I understand the people we honor today, because my household was affected very much the same way.”

Frank said that his specialty is “occupational medicine, and there are only a thousand of us in this country who are trained to do what we do. “ Frank added, “I think about the failures we have in this country, (such as ) the failures in leadership in places like Washington, that pass laws (but) don’t enforce them, and they don’t inspect workplaces, and they don’t get after companies that abuse their workers.”

Frank pointed out another failure, this one in the medical profession: “We have 850,000 doctors roughly in this country,” he said. “I take great pride in the fact that if you came to my office (at Drexel University), you’ll find my hard hat, my safety glasses, and my steel toed shoes, because I go out into workplaces.” Frank spoke of his work with such professions as Insulators, Sheet Metal Workers, Plumbers and Pipe Fitters, and has gone into coal mines with UMWA members. “Not enough doctors,” he added, “know about the workplace, or ask, ‘What kind of work do you do?’”

Holly Shaw, chair of the PHILAPOSH Family Support Group, said to those gathered, “Thank you for acknowledging that worker safety is apriority. I’m hopeful that the new administration in Washington will make the changes needed that will force companies to confront safety issues. I believe we now have friends in Washington.” Shaw, who lost her husband in an industrial accident, said to the families of workers killed on the job, “I know the pain and grief that you are feeling, I know the hurt that you are experiencing, I know the frustration you have and I know the roadblocks that are placed before you. Please know that we are here to support each other, and take strength from that.”

Rosalie Hetrick, who lost her husband who was employed by Verizon, spoke next. “I lost my husband, my friend, my soul mate, to a work related accident on May 21, 2008,” she said. “My life, the lives of our children, and the lives of our families and friends instantly morphed the moment my husband was killed. The last eleven months and two days have been saturated with grief and new experiences, disbelief and memories, and the determination to move into a direction that forces us to find some kind of solace and happiness. In my heart I have confidence that’s what Tom (her Husband) would have wanted for us.”

Hetrick recalled Tom’s career at Verizon, with his position as a line foreman, “Tom carried himself with grace and was genuine as well as loving, and kind and compassionate,” and “the most safety-conscious person I know. He was brilliant at quickly assessing situations and making informed decisions.” Hetrick spoke of one of Tom’s crew members, “in a very emotional state, that he pictures the accident every day, he sees Tom flying through the air (and) landing on his head. He told me he gave (Tom) CPR, and he tasted Tom’s blood in his mouth for a week.”

The program concluded with a funeral procession from the Sheet Metal Workers’ hall, down Christopher Columbus Boulevard, to the Great Plaza at Penn’s Landing. Brian Widelitz played the bagpipes for the procession, and Rabbi Mordechai Leibling said the Twenty-Third Psalm. Then participants lined up to read the names of people killed in workplace accidents as they threw roses into the Delaware River, while Widelitz played “Amazing Grace.”

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.