Pittsburgh’s annual Labor Day parade is considered the second largest in the U.S., behind New York City.
Thousands of union members and officials will converge on downtown Monday morning to celebrate the history of the labor movement, American workers and to call attention to specific issues.
“We’ll be discussing a number of issues, one of them is transportation funding, another one is the right to organize as it relates to UPMC, and most of the issues that labor feels are important,” said Jim Kunz, business manager of Operating Engineers Local 66.
Labor Day was first celebrated in New York City in 1882 and was declared a federal holiday by Congress in 1894. Membership in labor unions has declined in recent years, and several states have passed right-to-work laws which bar unions and employers from entering into agreements requiring employees to join a union and pay dues and fees to it in order to get or keep a job.
Kunz said Labor Day is about reminding people of the strides made for workers thanks, in large part, to the labor movement.
“I don’t think most of the public realizes all of the gains they benefit from even though they may never have or never will belong to a labor union, and that run can from the eight-hour work day, from the 40-hour work week to the family medical leave act, vacation time, pensions, even if it is a 401K, that all originated with labor,” he said.
But some question the need for labor unions in the modern business landscape, and accuse the organizations of corruption and worker intimidation.
“We’re the ones out there fighting for better wages, better working conditions, just a better way of life so you can live and retire in dignity,” Kunz said. "It goes back to that old adage that a rising tide lifts all boats.”
Pittsburgh’s Labor Day 2013 parade kicks off Monday morning at 10 a.m. near Centre Avenue near the Consol Energy Center. The parade route goes through downtown Pittsburgh, down Grant Street and on to Boulevard of the Allies. About 85,000 participants are expected in this year’s parade.