Feature stories

9/11 first responders honored at Labor Day Parade

The UFT contingent marches in the Labor Day Parade. Miller Photography

The UFT contingent marches in the Labor Day Parade.

Queens’ Aviation HS and Brooklyn’s PS 257 were among the schools participating i Miller Photography

Queens’ Aviation HS and Brooklyn’s PS 257 were among the schools participating in the march.

Nearly 1,000 UFT members joined some 50,000 union members from more than 300 unions as they marched up Fifth Avenue at the Sept. 10 Labor Day Parade to commemorate not only labor’s contributions to American society and the well-being of working men and women, but also the contributions of fire, police and other first responders following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center a decade earlier. 

A sizable contingent of firefighters, prominently featured at the parade, was warmly received from the mass of cheering labor supporters lining the avenue.

Vincent Alvarez, the president of the New York City Central Labor Council, the parade’s sponsor, said that this year’s parade was meant to remember those who lost their lives on 9/11 and to honor “the workers who continue to suffer health issues for their heroic work at Ground Zero.” 

They were so honored. When members of the city’s Uniformed Firefighters’ Association marched by 45th Street, soon after the parade’s start, they got a huge round of applause from the many onlookers, including union contingents such as the UFT waiting to join the parade. 

Among those leading the march was the UFT’s own Janella Hinds, who was recently elected secretary-treasurer of the Central Labor Council. 

Also prominent was Federation of Nurses/UFT member Barbara Wisdom, a Visiting Nurse Service R.N., who was one of four New York union members tapped as parade grand marshals for her heroic work on 9/11.

Throughout the parade were placards reflecting labor sentiments, including “The rich must pay their fair share” and “Workers’ rights are human rights.” 

9/11 first responders honored at Labor Day Parade - 3Miller PhotographyLeading the parade are (from left) former AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, Central Labor Council Secretary-Treasurer and UFT Special Representative Janella Hinds, state AFL-CIO President Denis Hughes, Mayor Bloomberg, Central Labor Council President Vincent Alvarez, District Council 37 Executive Director Lillian Roberts, AFT President Randi Weingarten, UFT President Michael Mulgrew and Communications Workers of America Local 1180 President Arthur Cheliotes.

Jorge Mitey, the chapter leader at Franklin D. Roosevelt HS in Brooklyn, said he participates regularly in the Labor Day Parade because “it’s a day of standing up with labor, showing our strength and remembering the struggles of the past and those that continue in our industries.”

For Nick Lung-Bugenski, a Long Island City HS social studies teacher, this was his first Labor Day parade. He was spurred to attend after getting involved in UFT rallies and political actions last year. “Now is not the time to sit back and think other people will do the work for us,” he said. Lung-Bugenski said he’s also taking that spirit to his students, telling them that an interest in social issues doesn’t stop with the end of the school day.   

Another first-time marcher was Michelle Perez, a colleague of Mitey’s at Franklin D. Roosevelt HS. “It’s pretty clear that there’s a war against the middle class and that all workers, public sector and private, have to work together,” she said.  

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