Labor made its voice heard this Labor Day weekend at events throughout Southern California. On Monday, September 3, the Los Angeles / Long Beach Harbor Labor Coalition’s 22nd Annual Labor Day March was a great success. Around three thousand union members and their families marched in a parade of floats, trucks, classic cars, motorcycles, and marching bands down Avalon Blvd. in Wilmington, just north of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
AFL-CIO President John Sweeney spoke at the rally and barbecue in Banning Park after the parade, with Miguel Contreras, Secretary Treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor at his side. Sweeney’s decision to come to L.A. to celebrate Labor Day is significant. Sweeney declared, “LA is a model union city. It is ground zero for rebuilding and re-energizing the entire labor movement.” Sweeney’s political message at the rally was that “Fast Track is the Wrong Track.” He pledged that labor would fight to prevent President Bush from gaining the fast track authority to push complete trade deals through Congress without change or amendment. Sweeney decried the disastrous effects of NAFTA and called on labor to defeat a Free Trade Area of the Americas, or FTAA, that Fast Track authority might allow Bush to pass.
Union locals from all over the region made a proud showing in the parade and rally, by some accounts the largest in the parade’s 22 year history. Unions included the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), the Building Trades affiliates, IBEW 11 electrical workers, the garment workers’ union UNITE!, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and many others. Banners and signs drew attention to labor concerns like corporate greed, health and safety, medical care costs, education, Fast Track and the global economy. Teamsters called attention to the “Charleston 5,” five union members arrested on the picket lines recently in Charleston, South Carolina.
The annual parade was launched in 1979 in response to a harbor strike and lockout against one participating union. Those men and women who conducted the march and rally continued this tradition, open to all unions and their members in the region, and the Labor Day event has grown steadily in Wilmington ever since.
Other Labor events this weekend included the first “Labor in the Pulpits” in Los Angeles, celebrating the growing partnerships between religious groups and unions. Beginning with a breakfast on Saturday between union leaders and African American clergy leaders, “Labor in the Pulpit” continued on Sunday when labor leaders boarded buses and stopped at churches throughout LA to speak on issues important to working families, from workplace conditions to immigration policy. Cardinal Roger Mahony presented a Labor Day Mass on Monday attended by numerous Labor leaders including Sweeney and Contreras, as well as elected officials including Governor Davis. At the mass, Sweeney denounced the denial of human rights and benefits to undocumented immigrant.