At Labor Day parade, leaders rally members to support Shapiro in governor’s race


By Aubri Juhasz

September 5, 2022


Members of Philadelphia labor unions marched down Delaware Avenue at the annual Labor Day Parade, September 5, 2022. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)


“Philadelphia is and always will be a union city,” said city controller Rebecca Rhynhart at the city’s 35th Annual Tri-State Labor Day Parade Monday morning.

Her words were met with cheers from the hundreds of union members and their families who had gathered to rally before marching the familiar route along Columbus Boulevard to Penn’s Landing.

“We would not be here without labor,” Rhynhart said. “We would not be Philadelphia without you.”


Members of Philadelphia labor unions marched down Delaware Avenue at the annual Labor Day Parade, September 5, 2022. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)


But Philly’s status as a “union city” is also under threat and many of Monday’s speeches focused on that. “This governor’s race is the most important race of the labor movement’s history,” said Gary Masino, president and business manager of Local 19, which represents the city’s sheet metal workers.


Members of Philadelphia labor unions marched down Delaware Avenue at the annual Labor Day Parade, September 5, 2022. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)


Masino and others urged their members to support Pennsylvania Attorney General and Democratic candidate for governor, Josh Shapiro, and to make sure they vote for him on Nov. 8.

Shapiro’s opponent, far-right Republican state Sen. Doug Mastriano has said if elected he wants to make Pennsylvania a right-to-work state, where unions cannot automatically collect dues or fees from workers.

“If he’s elected, there’ll be no more unions, there will be no more collective bargaining. We can’t let that happen,” said Pat Eiding, president of Philadelphia’s council of the AFL-CIO. While the mood at Monday’s rally was serious, it was also joyous.

Philly’s Labor Day parade was on hiatus during the pandemic and last year, its first year back since 2019, saw a lower-than-usual turnout.


Eiding said he expected this year’s parade to be back to normal, with more than 60 local unions marching.

Pat Eiding is President of the Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO, which represents over 100 unions in the city. He said infrastructure bills were the best thing to happen to unions in a long time. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)


It’s been a good year for unions, with membership growing and high-profile wins for the labor movement at Amazon and Starbucks. “Right now, we’re in a place that we haven’t been for many, many years,” Eiding said. “Quite honestly, it’s because of the President of the United States.”

Eiding said President Joe Biden has done more for working people in the last two years, especially with the recent passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, than any other president in his lifetime.

“If working people realize how many jobs — good jobs — that will mean, and the right to have a collective bargaining agreement … I’m really excited,” he said.

Lynda Thomas, a night cleaner at Congress Square, has been a member of SEIU 32BJ for more than 20 years and marches with the union most years.


Markeita Williams, a Local 57 traffic controller, danced with her son, Joshua, at the pre-parade rally in Philadelphia, on Labor Day, September 5, 2022. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)


“If God is willing I’m out here,” she said, adding the parade is an important “show of strength.”

Thomas, who is about to retire, said the union has been good to her over the years, between vacation, benefits, and just feeling like someone has her back.

William Griffin, a sheet metal worker with Local 19, brought his 1-year-old son to Monday’s parade and alternated between perching him on his shoulder and playfully tossing him in the air.


Will Griffin, a sheet metal worker with the Sheet Metal Workers Local 19, plays with his 1-year-old, at the pre-parade rally in Philadelphia on Labor Day, September 5, 2022. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)


The toddler was too small to wear an orange union T-shirt like his dad, but many slightly older kids could be seen wearing too big T-shirts, the fabric knotted in the back or billowing around their knees.

“The union is a family,” Griffin said, adding that he appreciates the benefits, which include a “great retirement plan” and ongoing job training.

Griffin became a sheet metal worker three years ago as part of a bridge program meant to help “inner-city children” make it to the union hall. He said he did well in the program and when it was finished, he was welcomed into the union’s apprenticeship program “with open arms.”


Members of Philadelphia labor unions marched down Delaware Avenue at the annual Labor Day Parade, September 5, 2022. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)


He said even though unions have a strong history in Philadelphia, it’s important not to take them for granted.

“You need to know where you come from in order to know where you want to go,” he said. “For us to make the union stronger and to keep progressing, I believe we all need to come out and show support.”

He said that’s what Labor Day is for.


This was originally posted on September 5, 2022 by WHYY. You can read the original article by clicking here.

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