NYC labor to protest at GOP convention

NEW YORK – In a break from a more than 20-year tradition, this city’s labor movement will forego its usual celebratory parade and instead hold a Labor Day protest of the Bush administration in front of the Republican National Convention.

On Wednesday, Sept. 1, the New York City Central Labor Council (CLC) will hold what it describes as “a real Labor Day rally to stop Bush from destroying our jobs, healthcare, schools, right to organize, retirement security, and communities.”

Hundreds of people, representing the city’s various unions, packed the CLC hall July 13 for an organizing meeting. The delegates to the meeting discussed the nuts-and-bolts issues of organizing the rally, weaving in talk of the event’s national context and the need to defeat Bush in November.

“This year Labor Day is not a celebration – we’re not talking about celebrating Labor Day. We’re really talking about Labor Day being the beginning of a campaign to take back America,” said Michael J. Cavanaugh, deputy director of the Department of Field Mobilizations for the AFL-CIO, speaking on behalf of AFL-CIO President John Sweeney.

Calling the New York City operation “the kickoff for this year’s entire Labor Day campaign,” Cavanaugh said, “Over the course of the week, people in communities across America, especially in the battleground states, will be doing similar types of events – not big rallies, but similar types of events focusing on a very clear message – that this election season is about good jobs, is about health care, is about building strong communities, and why it is that we need to throw Bush out of office to accomplish these objectives.” He added that by the night of Sept. 2, when Bush is officially given the GOP nomination, the labor movement wants to have over 10,000 volunteers working in the battleground states.

“The labor movement is again coming out together united and strong, this time to send a message directly to the American people in Election 2004,” CLC President Brian McLaughlin told the gathering.

“That message is clear: George W. Bush is bad for the American workers. … Bush is bad on issue after issue for the American worker, not just trade union workers, but all workers.”

“We want this rally to give inspiration to those who are working to defeat Bush and Cheney all across the country,” said another speaker. “But most media outlets are controlled by people tied to the administration. The only way that we’re going to get their attention is by sheer numbers, turning out the tens of thousands. You’ve gotta go back and get your members involved!”

“Latino labor is going to be out there on Sept. 1 and we’re going to be joining with all of you,” said Sonya Ivaney, the new president of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement. “It’s about time that we stand up and take America back. New York is going to be out there in force, all of us united as one, and we’re going to do it. We’re going to win together.”

The author can be reached at dmargolis@cpusa.org.