As threats to workers’ rights multiply at the state and federal levels, about 600 UFT members marched in the annual Labor Day Parade on Sept. 10 to show their support for the labor movement.
“The labor movement stands up for people who might not stand up for themselves — who might be afraid to stand up for themselves,” said Rachel Goetz, a UFT co-chapter leader of the District 2 Pre-K Centers and a teacher at the pre-K center at PS 281 in Manhattan.
The parade was a timely opportunity to bring unionized workers together, according to Goetz. “There’s a lot of pressing issues right now, especially with the upcoming vote on the constitutional convention,” she said, emphasizing the importance of “voting no and making people aware of the stakes.”
A proposal to hold a state constitutional convention will appear on the back of the ballot on Nov. 7, putting public employee pensions and other rights and benefits in jeopardy.
At the federal level, public sector workers face a threat from a pending U.S. Supreme Court case, Janus v. AFSCME. The Janus case challenges the “fair share” fees that public sector unions collect from workers who do not join the union but nevertheless benefit from a union-negotiated contract and union services.
“This year, with all of the attacks on working people and our families, it was especially inspiring to see workers from the public sector, private sector and building trades march together in solidarity,” said UFT Vice President for Academic High Schools Janella Hinds, who serves as secretary-treasurer of the New York City Central Labor Council, the parade sponsor.
Fortunately for the union, solidarity among its members was in abundance on the day of the parade. As UFT members gathered at the assembly point, the bus for UFT retirees was unable to start its engine. The group decided not to join the parade at its assigned time but instead waited on the side street until the retirees could board a replacement bus and accompany them as planned.
“It said a lot about us as a union that we wouldn’t leave any members behind,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew, recounting the incident at the union’s executive board meeting the following Monday.