Tens of thousands of marchers headed up Fifth Avenue on Sept. 9th in the city’s annual Labor Day parade, led by Nancy Hagan, president of the New York State Nurses Association.
The theme of the parade this year was “We Organize, We Rise.” Hagan had led nurses on one of the city’s most dramatic job actions when she led 9,000 of nurses on a three-day strike versus Mount Sinai Hospitals and Montefiore Medical Center in January. She eventually hammered out wage agreements amounting to 19 percent over three years for the privately run hospitals.
In July, the union’s public sector nurses won pay parity with the private hospital networks and also increased staffing levels to reduce the workload. The pay hikes amounted to 37 percent hike over five years, the union said.
The parade though not as massive as in the heyday of labor strength, still attracted representatives from more than 200 unions and contingency groups in the mile long trek up Fifth Ave. from 44th St. to 64th St. Hagan told Straus News she was “surprised and excited” when Parade Chairman Mark Henry of the Transport Workers Union informed her she’d been selected to be the Grand Marshall.
“This is more than labor’s moment, it is our movement and our movement is strong and growing in NYC, the state and the nation,” Hagan said.
One of the nurses, Patty Tyrrell was an inhouse R.N. assigned to assisting the FDNY and NYPD, and they were assigned to check vaccinations during COVID. “We kept the city running through COVID,” she said of the nurses. “We advocate for our patients, and we’re in solidarity with other unions. But when it comes to care, we just see people.”
The most boisterous contingent was, not surprisingly, the marchers from SAG-AFTRA, the union of actors and actresses who have been on strike against tv and movie studios for over 110 days. Members chanted, “We are the union, mighty, mighty union,” as they made their way up Fifth Ave before a sparse group of spectators. Marchers far outnumbered spectators at this year’s parade.
”We’re here to tell them we’re not going away,” said Jill Hennessy, one of the SAG-AFTRA marchers.
The screenwriters who are part of the Writers Guild of America have been on strike even longer than the actors. “I’m an aspirational Writers Guild member,” said Jordan Hawkes. “I’ve been picketing for the last three months. We need this, we need our livelihood,” she said.
One union plumber from Queens turned out to heckle some of the politicians who he said are not doing enough to help working class people. “Schumer, get outta there! you’re too old,” he shouted as the 72 year old senator walked past.
“When was the last time Schumer did anything about the problems facing our city on immigration and the economy?” he asked when Straus News spoke with him. “And where is Adams?’’
Schumer has actually called for accelerating work visas for immigrants and claims to be pushing for federal aid to offset the strain that the arrival of more than 100,000 migrants has placed on the city’s finances.
Adams warned over the weekend that the city is facing a “financial tsunami” and he is going to have to cut city budgets to make up for what is expected to be another $12 billion in costs over the next three years.
But most members, at least on the day were upbeat. “I’m feeling good about this,” said Janella Hinds, as she prepared to march with Hagan.
Any as in virtually any big time event in Manhattan, there is always an international component. Max and Jaennine Eilers were in town for ten days from Oldenburg, Germany and were watching as the politicians and union leaders marched by. “We saw it advertised and wanted to have a look,” said Max. He said there is a similar parade in Germany. “We’re pro worker,” he said.