Floats, marching bands, cheer squads and people in carnival costumes, face paint and union letters and numbers lined the streets of Fifth Avenue Saturday for the Labor Parade.
Approximately 150 unions and more than 50,000 marchers attended the event, according to Kate Whalen, the communications director of the New York City Central Labor Council, the nation’s largest regional labor federation.
“Today was a great day,” said Whalen. “We had a great turnout.”
At the parade, there were people young and old, as well as new union members and journeymen and women.
One of the new union members was Lawrence Anival of IUEC Local 1.
“I’ve been with Local 1 for two months,” said Anival. “We are a jack-of-all-trades, which means that we do construction, we do electrical, we do pipefitting, we do carpentry work and we pretty much do a bit of everything.”
Anival is proud to be a part of a veteran-friendly union.
“I was in the Marines and served for five years,” said Anival. ”It’s a very small union that represents 3,000 people, but we hold ourselves to a higher standard.”
Lawrence Nelson, a computer programmer for Queensborough Community College, has been a part of Local 2627, DC 37, AFSCME for 35 years. The union represents those that work in information technology for city agencies.
“Job protection, proper benefits and proper salary,” were some reasons that he was proud to wave his union banner at the Labor Parade.
With Right-to-Work laws sweeping the nation more than ever under the Trump administration, Nelson hopes that New York unions continue to fight for the protections that members are proud of and the labor laws will be strengthened.
“Current labor laws are getting weakened by the current administration,” said Nelson. “I want public service laws to be strengthened. There are places that try to break unions so that people can pay you whatever they want and fire you for whatever you want without reason.”
Although Nelson identifies as straight, he wants to help ensure that those in the LGBT community won’t get discriminated and lose work across the country as states in the south and Midwest continue to choose so-called “right-to-work” laws over unions.
“I want all those that identify as LGBT+ have all the job protections that they deserve,” he said, as union members and their children riding on colorful floats chanted “union-busting is disgusting.”
President Shaun Francois of Local 372, a union that represents support services within the Department of Education, was also at the parade.
“As a president for five years, I govern to fight for justice and equality,” said Francois. “I try to make sure the members are treated fairly, have good working conditions, have good healthcare and job prospects.”
The Janus vs. AFSCME case, which ruled against public-sector unions collecting fees from nonunion employees, was on Francois’ mind.
“They tried to do away with unions, but we are not going nowhere,” he said. “America was founded on the middle-class, and unions are a middle-class structure. They can take away our dues, but it doesn’t matter. We are going to educate people on the importance of unions.”
U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), who has worked on safety, plumbing and fire safety laws while a member of the New York City Council, was loving the energy of this year’s parade.
“Labor built New York,” said Maloney, who also championed the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund, which gives benefits to first responders, volunteers and citizens who were at Ground Zero. “We rebuilt after 9/11, and it was built by hard-working men and women who are the backbone of the city.”