Houston: Union members lined up their RVs and smokers and cooked up huge quantities of barbecue at the Harris County AFL-CIO’s Labor Day barbecue cook-off, a three-day bonanza of food and fun at the Pasadena Convention Center, Aug. 31 through Sept. 2.
Contests awarded prizes for the best barbecue brisket and beans and other dishes. Activities for kids featured a climbing wall and huge inflated slides and trampolines.
The Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA) and other labor and progressive groups had booths.
The area was so large that some people rode on golf carts to get to their destinations. Mayor Bill White traveled around on one while visiting with union members.
Voter registrars were present, but most union members were already registered to vote. Many people expressed excitement about the Democrats’ prospects in 2008. Democrats here are aggressively campaigning to throw out the Republican judges who currently dominate Harris County courtrooms.
— Paul Hill
Indianapolis: Speakers and the rainbow of marchers at the annual Labor Day march, Sept. 1, reflected the racial and ethnic unity that is a backbone of labor’s strength: Black, brown and white united. Some union members wore T-shirts their locals had produced, sporting the slogan, ‘United we bargain, divided we beg.’ Rep. Julia Carson and Mayor Bart Peterson were there to lend support. Peterson said workers play a central role in building a strong Indianapolis.
Jim Robinson, Steelworkers union district director, declared, ‘It’s time to end the race to the bottom that benefits only the rich around the world.’ He called for workers to ‘take our state back, our country back, and our world back.’
People’s Weekly World distributors stopped for breakfast before the parade and were given a warm welcome when they asked the restaurant owner if they could start leaving some PWWs there weekly. “They not only gave us permission but immediately cleared a prominent spot for us,” one participant reported.
— Eric Brooks
Los Angeles: At the annual Labor Day breakfast here Maria Elena Durazo, executive secretary treasurer of the 840,000-member Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, unveiled a bold action plan for area unions to successfully face the economic and political challenges of 2008. Over 200,000 members of 25 area unions have their contracts up for negotiations in 2008, when key national, state and local elections also take place.
“These are dangerous times with good paying jobs, health care and pensions under attack, and the rights of immigrant workers, their very existence is under attack,” Durazo said. She told the crowd of over 500 labor activists, and political and community leaders that the local federation would hold its 2nd Delegate Congress in December with hundreds of workplace representatives planning how to “mobilize every resource, activist and ally in organizing and politics to make ourselves more relevant to the people we represent.” L.A. labor will have a big impact on the Democratic presidential primary set for Feb. 5 next year, she added.
She was joined on stage by rank and file activists of the 25 unions facing negotiations next year who spoke of what would be at stake for them in longshore, janitorial, community college, transport workers, building trade, UPS drivers, health care, farm workers and other fields.
— Rosalio Muñoz
Philadelphia: Thousands of union members and their families gathered for a rally and parade, winding up with a picnic on the Delaware River. Large contingents from the International Longshoremen of America, Unite Here, Laborers District Council, SEIU, Communication Workers of America, 1199C Health Care Workers Union, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, Iraq Veterans Against the War, neighborhood drill teams, and hundreds more on floats and walking, paraded up Columbus Boulevard with colorful banners.
The colorful crowd represented the city’s racial and ethnic diversity.
Central Labor Council President Patrick Eiding opened the rally with a moment of silence for “all the brothers and sisters we are losing in this crazy war in Iraq.” AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, the rally’s keynote speaker, pledged to recruit millions of union workers to actively work for health care reform. With a record high 46.6 million uninsured in the U.S., Sweeney said, “Nobody should have to fear the consequences of getting sick and no company should have to go out of business because health care costs are out of control.” Eiding and other labor leaders focused on victory in the 2008 elections. Michael Nutter, Democratic candidate for mayor this November, marched in the parade.
Distribution of the People’s Weekly World drew an excellent response. A U.S. Labor Against the War flyer for the Oct. 27 antiwar demonstration was also well received.
— Rosita Johnson
Pittsburgh: Held high on the waves of teachers, carpenters, boilermakers, steelworkers, miners and nearly every of the 181 contingents marching through downtown were signs saying the best way to support the troops is to bring them home from Iraq, and demanding national health care. At the end of the two-and-a-half-hour parade, over 75,000 workers interspersed with high school bands and drill teams marched passed the reviewing stand.
Before the parade stepped off, the Steelworkers and Mine Workers unions hosted a rally to announce their endorsement of John Edwards for the Democratic nomination for president. His wife Elizabeth Edwards marched with the steelworkers.
Following the parade, steelworkers and local officials closed down one of the city’s scores of bridges to rename it the Philip Murray Bridge. Murray was the founding president of the USW.
— Denise Winebrenner Edwards