PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Bright sunshine helped draw thousands of union members and dozens of city officials and candidates for office to Philadelphia’s annual Labor Day parade down Columbus Boulevard.
Philadelphia politicians share a close working relationship with organized labor, evident from the sizeable contingent of city officials on hand for the pre-parade rally on Monday. Many, including Mayor Jim Kenney, District Attorney Seth Williams and Councilman Derek Green, noted a personal connection.
“My father was a member of the Federation of Teachers,” Williams said. “He was a member of District Council 33, because he worked at a rec center every night.”
“My father was a union firefighter,” Kenney added.
“My mother taught for 30 years as a school teacher,” Green said.
An improved local economy, shoring up union jobs helped the festive atmosphere. But there was a cloud on the horizon.
Just a few years ago, with the economy in recession, the parade felt as if it was in a defensive stance, fighting off fears of unions’ demise, but as local AFL-CIO president Pat Eiding made clear, not this year.
“We have a great future for Philadelphia,” Eiding told the crowd. “We have a great future for our kids, we have a great future for people getting jobs.”
Still, there was a shadow: The FBI raid on the electricians’ union, last month. Councilman Bobby Henon’s office was searched by the feds, apparently in relation to the investigation. But he was there, proudly touting his union affiliation.
“It’s a day to bring your family and your friends out and be reminded of the principles we all stand for,” Henon said, “health and welfare, pensions, a respectable living, dignity and raising your kids in a place we can be proud of.”
Eiding dismissed the investigation as a fishing expedition, and city officials, for whom unions have been a valuable base of support, unabashedly joined the rally to celebrate organized labor.
Congressman Bob Brady is a union member himself.
“There’s a whole bunch of good people out here, hardworking men and women and that’s what today is about,” Brady said, “celebrating hardworking men and women.”
The day’s festivities included a family picnic at Penn’s Landing.