PHILADELPHIA -- Tens of thousands of union leaders, members, and supporters, Long Islanders among them, gathered for the Workers Stand for America rally in Philadelphia this past weekend with two goals -- to advocate for health, education, voting access, collective bargaining, retirement, and decent jobs and to let the Democratic Party know that labor is upset that the party chose a right-to-work state for its national convention.
The five-hour event drew a crowd of 30,000, Philadelphia police said. Organizers had expected 20,000. A Long Island labor spokesman said several groups from the Island attended the rally.
The Workers Stand for America rally was initially the result of union anger at the choice of largely nonunion Charlotte, N.C. for the convention. But, under the guidance of Edwin D. Hill, president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the focus shifted to how unions could address issues important to them and to the middle class.
"There is a lot more to this than the two people running for president," said Patrick Eiding, who heads the Philadelphia AFL-CIO. "I think the message has to be to all politicians. We as working people in this world need to be recognized for the things that we need."
The centerpiece of Saturday's event was a five-point Second Bill of Rights on health, education, voting access, collective bargaining, retirement, and decent jobs that the rally organizers will ask politicians to sign.
"That's going to be our litmus test," said James Williams, president of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades. "If they can't support these issues, we can't support them."