Labor Day Parade a reminder of unions and their history

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo are among the politicians expected to march in the Labor Day Parade on Sept. 9, 2017.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo are among the politicians expected to march in the Labor Day Parade on Sept. 9, 2017. Photo Credit: Getty Images for Michael Kors / JP Yim

Labor Day has come and gone, but the festivities aren’t over yet.

The city’s Labor Day Parade will take to Fifth Avenue in Manhattan at 10 a.m. Saturday with a message of unity.

“Attacks on working people continue to increase around the country,” said Vincent Alvarez, president of the New York City Central Labor Council, which organizes the parade. “All eyes are on us in New York City. We need to show we are working together and leading the way.”

Alvarez called it the oldest and largest Labor Day parade in the nation, with roots dating to 1882.

But in recent years there seem to be more marchers than spectators. Alvarez said that’s not a problem.

“You have to look at our parade differently from other parades,” Alvarez said. “Anyone who is associated with a union or wants to be part of a union can march with us and not just view as spectators. It’s more of a march.”

Richard Steier, editor of the Chief-Leader who has covered New York City labor for decades, said the parade is an important annual event for the unions.

“It’s a chance for them to show their colors and remind people that there is a labor movement and make sure their voices are heard,” Steier said.

The parade will step off at 44th Street, and Edgar Romney, secretary-treasurer of Workers United SEIU will serve as grand marshal. This year’s marchers hope to call attention to the Constitutional Convention question on the November ballot.

Voters will be asked to vote yes or no on whether to hold a Constitutional Convention, which could allow sweeping amendments to the New York State Constitution.

Some groups have argued that a convention could help make changes to root out corruption — others worry it could open the door to dismantling decades-old rights for union members.

Alvarez said all state unions, including law enforcement, construction trades, teachers and other municipal workers are strongly opposed to holding a convention.

“The convention would be run and controlled by special interests, Albany insiders and lobbyists,” he said. “Pensions, prevailing wage, collective bargaining are enshrined in the New York State Constitution. They protect all working people, not just unionized workers.”

The parade is also an opportunity for elected officials to campaign and get face time with union leaders and members.

And there’s always a chance for political drama.

In 2014, video of gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout trying unsuccessfully to shake hands with Gov. Andrew Cuomo went viral. The cringeworthy clip showed Cuomo aide Joe Percoco physically blocking her from approaching the governor.

Ironically, Cuomo ignored her while sharing a warm greeting with Mayor Bill de Blasio, with whom his relationship is now a bit frosty.

Cuomo and de Blasio have been invited to attend along with other elected officials.