NEW YORK — As many as 200,000 people marched Sept. 10 in New York City’s Labor Day parade, including workers from all the city’s unions, anti-Wal-Mart activists, elected leaders, mayoral hopefuls — and People’s Weekly World/Nuestro Mundo (PWW) distributors, who handed out 5,000 sample copies of the paper at the event.
The New York labor parade is the largest and oldest of its type in the United States.
The AFL-CIO leadership was there in force: John Sweeney, the federation’s president, marched, along with Brian McLaughlin, president of the New York Central Labor Council (CLC), and Denis Hughes, president of the state AFL-CIO, as well as leaders of other AFL-CIO-affiliated unions, including the United Federation of Teachers, AFSCME District Councils 1707 and 37, and many others.
However, in a deliberate gesture by the CLC to promote labor unity, both the parade’s grand marshal and chairman were members of unions associated with the Change to Win Coalition, which led a breakaway from the AFL-CIO in July. Peter Ward, executive vice president of Unite Here, served as grand marshal, while Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail Workers Department Store Union, served as chairman.
The themes of the this year’s parade were multifold: aid to the victim’s of Hurricane Katrina and remembrance of 9/11 victims, protecting unionization rights, protecting diversity and immigrants within the U.S. working class, and supporting public education. A special emphasis was put on the fight against Wal-Mart, which many see as a campaign that builds labor unity.
“The message of this Labor Day Parade is that all unions stand together in saying ‘No’ to Wal-Mart,” Appelbaum said at the parade. “Wal-Mart’s promise of low prices comes at too high a cost. Wal-Mart’s values are not New York’s values.”
While there have been divisions within the labor movement over city’s upcoming mayoral election, since a number of key unions have endorsed Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg, PWW distributors said that there was little to no enthusiasm from anyone with whom they spoke for the current mayor — even within the unions whose leadership endorsed him.
Unite Here held a rally where Bloomberg spoke. While eyewitnesses said the crowd cheered with enthusiasm for their union, they said Bloomberg himself received a much less enthusiastic reception.
A number of members of the United Federation of Teachers held up the “Unions for Bloomberg” signs that the mayor’s campaign workers had distributed. However, the teachers holding the signs — who have been without a contract for years — weren’t holding them in the way that Bloomberg’s camp would have liked: They held the signs up high, but they had torn them in half.
Some members of DC37, which also endorsed Bloomberg, carried signs or wore stickers for Fernando Ferrer, Bloomberg’s likely rival.
While reading the PWW, a member of Transport Workers Union Local 100, whose union endorsed Ferrer, saw the article headlined “Labor activists question mayoral endorsement” and remarked, “Yeah. I’m not really an activist, but I’m questioning Bloomberg, too.”
Many complimented the PWW’s labor coverage, both local and national, and said they enjoyed the paper.
The People’s Weekly World annual fund drive started on Sept. 15. Help make sure that we will be at the Labor Day parades nationwide next year and for years to come!