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Stepping up for labor

UFT members show their pride at parade

UFT President Michael Mulgrew (center) helps the paraprofessionals celebrate thePat ArnowUFT President Michael Mulgrew (center) helps the paraprofessionals celebrate their 50th anniversary.

“Who are we? UFT! What are we? Union strong!”

It was a chant heard up and down Fifth Avenue from Rockefeller Plaza to Central Park on Saturday, Sept. 8, as more than 1,200 exuberant UFT members turned out in force to show union strength and pride at the city’s Labor Day Parade.

UFT members march down Fifth Avenue.Pat ArnowUFT members march down Fifth Avenue.

This year, for the first time, members and their families also continued the celebration at a special family festival at a nearby middle school.

“We’ve got to come out and represent to show how important unions are across the nation!” said retired teacher Paulette Jackson.

Wearing “Union Proud” T-shirts, UFT members proudly hoisted their UFT umbrellas aloft as UFT President Michael Mulgrew, the parade’s grand marshal, led the union contingent up Fifth Avenue.

“The Labor Day Parade is an opportunity to show the forces desperate to undermine our rights that we remain strong and that we stand together,” Mulgrew said.

Many participants were first-time attendees who said that the Supreme Court’s anti-union decision in Janus v. AFSCME in June had galvanized them.

These large marionettes were a big hit.Pat ArnowThese large marionettes were a big hit.

“The Janus case made us aware of the threat against unions and has made our chapter stronger. We don’t want another Wisconsin,” said Hoi Yee, a union delegate from PS 101 in Brooklyn who attended the parade with other members from his school. “We want to show our support and keep our union strong.”

Nicholas Jacobellis, a teacher at Frederick Douglass Academy II in Harlem, was also attending for the first time.

“I was shocked when I saw this many people,” he said. “It shows the people in power how many of us there are in unions that vote.”

The parade marked a special occasion for the union’s 25,000 paraprofessionals, who kicked off a yearlong celebration of the 50th anniversary of paraprofessionals’ vote in 1969 to join the UFT.

Children enjoy the bounce house at the family event.Pat ArnowChildren enjoy the bounce house at the family event.

“I’m really happy to be here to support the union and support the paraprofessionals,” said paraprofessional Paulette Carter, another first-time attendee. “The union’s done good things for me.”

Carter, who works at Middle College HS at LaGuardia Community College, said the union’s Career Training Program helped her earn her bachelor’s degree.

After the parade, members headed uptown to the Robert F. Wagner MS schoolyard, where they enjoyed a barbecue lunch, a bounce house, face painting and balloon artists.

Seung Lee, a science teacher and the chapter leader at PS 1 in Manhattan, enjoysPat ArnowSeung Lee, a science teacher and the chapter leader at PS 1 in Manhattan, enjoys the family barbecue with his son Eoin. “We had a great time,” he said.

“It’s amazing,” said Sherena Lawson, an occupational therapist at PS 65 in Queens, as she surveyed the crowd alongside her 8-year-old daughter. “There’s such a warm feeling of community and togetherness.”

See more photos in the gallery »

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