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September 9, 2019

PEF members march together in solidarity on Labor Day

BY KATE MOSTACCIO

From Buffalo to New York City, PEF members were out in force for Labor Day parades throughout the state, showing their support of workers’ rights, commemorating the holiday, and standing behind their contract team.

“Turnout was amazing,” said PEF Associate Director of Field Service Organizing Dan Carpenter. “We had nearly 500 members participate in the New York City parade and nearly 200 in Albany. And we had well over double what we normally see in Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse.”

New York City 

In New York City on Sept. 7, nearly 500 hundred PEF members from Regions 9, 10, 11 and 12 stood together behind their contract team and surrounded and rode on the PEF float, which proclaimed “New York Will Be Rotten If PEF Is Forgotten,” emblazoned with an apple and a worm to drive the point home.

“It was a spectacular turnout,” said Darlene Williams, Region 10 coordinator and contract team chair. “Our members really stepped up and sent a strong message that PEF is Union Strong and stands together for a fair contract.”

Region 11 Coordinator Bernadette O’Connor was pleased with her region’s participation. “My region had great turnout,” she said. “By going to all the meetings, announcing and advertising, I think we did a great job in organizing and motivating the members to come out. It really sends a great message, especially when we have contract negotiations.”

O’Connor hopes future PEF events will have similar results. “When we have these events we all have to come out and organize the members, and encourage them and mobilize them like we did on Labor Day,” she said. “Everyone was involved and everyone was happy to see each other.”

Coming in from Long Island, Region 12 packed a bus full of members to take part in the New York City parade.

“This year Region 12 stepped up their participation,” said Region 12 Coordinator Nora Higgins. “On the ride there we spoke of contract updates; contract support campaigns like #ashtag Fridays and Members in Black (MIB); and upcoming regional events. The atmosphere was jubilant and weather was beautiful, together it was the perfect mix for a spirited parade.”

Higgins said the gummy worms PEF provided as giveaways were popular. “The gummy worms were a hit with engaging our community members, big and small,” she said.

Enthusiasm remained high throughout the morning. “The union spirit is alive and well,” Higgins said. “On the way home I asked for a show of hands for next year — all hands went up immediately without hesitation.”

Members, holding signs that reflected the vast array of PEF job titles and called for a fair contract, were joined by their families as they marched.

“The members at the parade were enthusiastic,” said Region 9 Coordinator Diane Jaulus. “One member brought her 10-year-old son with her. He was a true trooper. He got up early and walked the whole parade route. I believe it is important to include all family members in the union activities. This is the best way for future PEF members to learn about the important role the union plays in their lives.”

Albany

Participation more than doubled this year for the Albany Labor Day Parade in Region 8 on Sept. 6.

“Turnout was very high,” said Regional Coordinator Mike Blue. “Spirits were high. Members were happy to participate and were determined that we get the best possible contract that we can negotiate.”

Blue was grateful for the Trolley Bus donated by CDTA for those with mobility issues. “I’m not sure of the number of people who made use of it but it was a greatly appreciated response to our request to the parade organizers,” he said.

Syracuse

At the New York State Fair in Syracuse, the rain didn’t stop dedicated PEF members from stepping out and representing working Americans.

“It was a thousand percent better than in years past,” said Region 4 Coordinator Bobbi Stafford. “It was a very well-attended event and it was a lot of fun.”

The dedication of the members in the face of the weather was impressive.

“It was raining on and off, mostly on, the whole time and it did not deter these people,” Stafford said. “We got the word out that it was a contract support event. We hustled and it went really well.”

And, towering above the marchers, you couldn’t miss the inflatable firefighter from the fire safety booths, where fire protection specialists from PEF Division 179 were helping spread fire safety information to fairgoers.

“Despite the rain, people were excited to engage with their Brothers and Sisters and march in solidarity,” said Carpenter. “They were excited for the opportunity to support the contract team as they negotiate for a fair contract.”

Rochester

Region 3 brought out the big bikes for the parade and engaged the audience.

“It was a real celebration of working people,” said Region 3 Coordinator Colleen Williams. “Over 50 PEF members marching on foot led the parade with our Region 3 banner. Marchers were followed by 30 or more of our members on a couple of multiple-rider group bicycles to demonstrate the power of combined strength and cooperation.”

The bikes carried the message “Together . . . That’s How We Roll!” and it was a hit with parade viewers, said Williams. “The bikes rode close to the crowd on one side of the road and high-fived everyone, then they’d veer over to the other side to share the love. The crowd was cheering,” she said.

Despite a rainy start to the day, Williams said attendance was more than double than in past years. “Usually we get the leaders from each work location in the region and a few others,” she said. “This year we had more first-time marchers than stewards and leaders.

“That is inspiring because we are really at a crossroads here in how working people are treated in this country,” she said. “I think our members recognize the importance of this moment and they want their voices heard.”

Williams said it’s no secret that the hard work of PEF members keeps the state running. “I’m so proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with these fine folks in an effort to make New York run as effectively and efficiently as possible,” she said. “These professionals really do care about the people we serve; it is inspiring.”

Buffalo

A record number of PEF members ventured out despite a stormy morning in Region 1 for the Buffalo parade, marching together behind a yellow firetruck carrying the region’s banner and adorned with Union Strong signs.

“This was the largest turnout we’ve ever had in Region 1,” said Regional Coordinator Michele Silsby. “Our weather probably scared away some of the retirees and families with small children, it was very stormy in the morning, but despite the weather starting out rough I was amazed at how many people came out. It was incredible.”

The skies might have been gloomy but the members weren’t. “People were in great spirits,” Silsby said. “Everybody was very emotional because we’re at contract time right now. I think we were quite loud.”

Following the parade was a big picnic where PEF members joined other unions for good food and solidarity. “There was a lot of support from all our Brother and Sister unions out there,” Silsby said.

Massena

At the Massena Labor Day Parade in Region 7, members decorated a float with union signs and braved ongoing downpours to celebrate Labor Day in the North Country.

“Region 7 actively participated in Labor Day festivities with a float that focused on supporting the PEF contract team and the need to remain Union Strong to the finish line,” said Region 7 Coordinator Virginia Davey. “Those who attended, and braved the weather events, maintained a festive, upbeat, and Union Strong attitude for the two-mile hike.”

Davey said the parade was a showcase of area unions. “The parade was packed with every imaginable union in the North Country,” she said. “We were joined by true unionists, Region 6 Coordinator Jeanette St. Mary and field representatives Marty Blair and John Pollack.”

Region 7 is proud of its float this year. “Some said it was the best float ever,” Davey said. “We had a great time playing in the rain as we constructed our float. Thank goodness for that laminator and waterproof banners. We can’t wait for Labor Day next year.”

Friends of PEF

Across the regions, legislators also joined the PEF marchers. “At each of the parades, elected officials showed their support of the work PEF members do by marching with us,” said Carpenter.

This year’s turnout wouldn’t have been possible without hard work and determination from the regions.

“The regional coordinators and their parade committees did an excellent job recruiting and preparing for these successful parades,” Carpenter said.

 


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