The New York City AFL-CIO Central Labor Council organized a Labor Day Parade on Sept. 9 that celebrated a series of local labor victories, while putting the ongoing strike by the writers’ and actors’ unions center stage.

In what is one of the country’s largest and oldest Labor Day customs, New York City hosts the annual procession of hundreds of union floats up Fifth Avenue through Manhattan, providing a platform to spread news of the city’s labor issues and organizing efforts on a massive scale.

This year, the Labor Council used the structure to boost the fight of the actors and writers who have been waging what they say is a strike for the future of the industry against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. Hundreds of Writers Guild of America East and SAG-AFTRA members led a loud and joyful crowd of march near the head of the parade Saturday, followed by a procession of locals with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.

“We have been supported by the New York Labor Movement from day one of our strike on the picket lines in Albany and City Hall,” said WGAE Executive Director Lowell Peterson. “We’ve had members of IATSE and the teamsters honor our lines. The actors have been out with us from day one. It is time for us to show our solidarity with the labor movement, the way the labor movement has shown its solidarity with us.”

Actors and writers have been fighting for a contract that creates a new financial model for workers that addresses the ways streaming services have transformed the entertainment industry over the past decade, with the future impacts of artificial intelligence technology looming over negotiations.

Though IATSE is not on strike at the moment, its members as well as Teamsters truck drivers, have walked off sets in solidarity with the actors and writers to shut down or halt dozens productions.

“We’re ready, willing and able to work,” said Ross Laterra, an IATSE Local 52 member. “Five months out of work is tough for everybody.”

But the parade’s theme “We Organize, We Rise” didn’t just focus on ongoing labor struggles — it celebrated recent victories too. This year Nancy Hagans, the President of the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA), served as the parade’s Grand Marshall in celebration of the historic contract wins that her union secured over the past year.  Most recently the union reached a contract agreement with New York City Health + Hospitals that includes a major pay increase for its 8,000 public nurses in the city.

“It means the world to our union. It means our hard work that we’ve done through the year, especially this year with our contract negotiations, successful contract and strike that enabled to have the word pay parity for the public sector — is being acknowledged,” Hagans told LaborPress, about her role in the parade.

She wasn’t the only one to feel uplifted by the resurgent labor energy. James Davis, president of the Professional Staff Congress-CUNY,  said he didn’t remember seeing this much labor organizing in years.

“It’s exciting,” he said. “It’s good to see working people coming together. It’s good to see public favorability up and it’s good to see unions taking more militant action standing up for what they need.”


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