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Union takes lead at Labor Day Parade

PEP Photos by Mike Lee
WE NEVER QUIT: In a powerful show of union power, District Council 37 leaders and activists came out in droves at the Labor Day Parade on Sept. 9 to defend unions, who are under attack by right-wing special interests.

Under sunny, near cloudless skies, New York City’s labor movement went on the offensive at the annual Labor Day Parade on Fifth Avenue in midtown Manhattan on Saturday, Sept 9.

DC 37 Treasurer and Local 1407 Pres. Maf Misbah Uddin with SSEU Local 371 Pres. Anthony Wells at the Labor Day parade.
A proud and enthusiastic contingent of DC 37 leaders and activists led the way in a fierce demonstration of labor solidarity. At a time when right-wing anti-labor forces are waging a national effort to snatch away the hard-fought freedoms of working families, New York unions sent a clear message to policymakers and elected officials: Our rights are not up for grabs.

DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido spelled out what’s at stake in a Labor Day column for the New York Daily News: “The anti-labor goal is simple: to silence the collective voice of public sector unions, which push for policies that benefit all workers, such as increasing the minimum wage, affordable health care and better public schools.”

Underscoring a spirit of renewed fightback, dozens of new union activists, also known as Volunteer Member Organizers (VMOs), led the way up Fifth Avenue. Member participation is critical to the union’s effort to confront the challenges ahead.

The union contingent was heralded by the Brooklyn United Marching Band and their dance troupe, which lent a festive atmosphere to the event.
The union expects soon to begin contract negotiations with the city, and it is bracing for a possible adverse ruling in a case now before the U.S. Supreme Court called Janus v. AFSCME. In its ruling, the court could curtail public workers’ ability to organize and negotiate collectively.

“This is the first time I have really been involved in the union,” said Local 372 member Maria Ortiz. “A lot of people don’t know what’s going on. We have to get information out to members.”

These VMOs are currently engaged in educating members and building workplace solidarity. These volunteer organizers are a vital component in DC 37’s long-term project to build a fighting union in the face of the attacks on our rights.

Activists paused at Trump Tower to express their defiant resistance to President Donald J. Trump.
“It’s mainly about the young generation,” said VMO Virginia Salisbury, a Local 420 retiree. “We have to educate them more and more.”

The parade highlighted the campaign against the constitutional convention, which is on the ballot this November. The union has joined a broad coalition of groups to encourage members and their families to vote against the measure.

If passed, a convention to amend the New York state constitution will threaten public worker pensions and other long-standing economic and social gains for working families statewide. Marchers carried placards denouncing the measure.

The union also protested the Trump administration’s recent abolishment of the DACA program that threatens the lives of more than 800,000 young working immigrants who rely on the program to remain in the United States.

The march paused at Trump Tower, where members shouted their ire, chanting, “Donald Trump, rich and rude, we don’t like your attitude!”