Several hundred NYSUT members joined thousands of their union sisters and brothers from around the state Saturday, Sept. 12, in a strong show of solidarity during the annual Labor Day Parade in New York City.
The parade, which was sponsored by the New York City Central Labor Council/AFL-CIO, was held the weekend after the actual Sept. 7 celebration of the national observance, to accommodate the many smaller local parades around the state scheduled for Labor Day weekend proper.
The event drew NYSUT locals and affiliates from all over the state, including the United Federation of Teachers in the New York City schools; the Professional Staff Congress at the City University of New York; United College Employees of Fashion Institute of Technology, Union of Clerical, Administrative and Technical Staff at NYU; and United University Professions at the State University of New York. They joined unionists from dozens of other trades and professions in a march up Fifth Avenue that lasted for 20 blocks and two hours.
NYSUT officers spent time marching with different delegations from the union. Joining the parade were Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta, vice presidents Catalina Fortino and Paul Pecorale, and Secretary-Treasurer Martin Messner.
"Our Labor Day Parade celebrates the struggle to secure workers' rights and benefits and the struggle to keep those rights and benefits continues today," said Pallotta. "Today is a great showing of solidarity to our fellow sisters and brothers, the public, and our elected officials. Unions have been, and continue to be, an important part of the story of the American middle class and the American dream."
The parade passed both cheering bystanders by the thousands and many Manhattan landmarks notable for their strong links to labor history through their construction — such as Rockefeller Center — or their symbolic support for the labor movement. Several NYSUT members handed out books and pencils to children along the parade route; almost all sported hats, banners and signs in the colors of their local or affiliate.
Several NYSUT members were marching for the first time, including John Hughes, a member of SUNY's Empire State College, who said he went home "fired up" from the event.
"I was impressed with the diversity of trades, and I thought that this was an important way to spend the day," Hughes said.
His SUNY colleague William Simons, chapter president of UUP at SUNY Oneonta, said even though this was far from his first parade, he always leaves feeling energized.
Said Simons, "This really was about solidarity."