There is only one national holiday in the United States that celebrates the accomplishments of the American worker: Labor Day. For the last 35 years, the community of Wilmington, CA (a neighborhood in the City of Los Angeles which is located adjacent to the Port of Los Angeles) has held an annual Labor Day Parade in which thousands of working men and women and their families have marched together, in unity to celebrate those who physically built this country and who keep it running. South Bay 350 Climate Action Group is proud to join that Parade on Monday, September 7, 2015 at 10:00 a.m. at Avenue E and Broad Street in Wilmington.
The Parade route starts on “E” Street and Broad Street and then heads north on Avalon Blvd., then west on “M” Street and ends at the grounds of the iconic Banning Park, once the home to Phineas Banning, known as the “Father of the Port of Los Angeles.” The parade route takes about an hour to march and is followed by a picnic with tons of free food, a program with speakers, and lots of community booths with information. This is truly a family event and attended by thousands. It is organized every year by the Los Angeles Long Beach Harbor Labor Coalition.
The first Labor Day Parade had 14 unions represented with about 750 marchers. In the 1990s, over 100 unions attended with as many as 10,000 marchers. Traditionally, the parade has only been open to labor organizations. Last year, the organizers agreed to allow a contingent of youths from the Port of Los Angeles High School, led by teacher Rachel Bruhnke, to march in the parade to promote the message of “Green Jobs are Good Jobs” and the opportunities for the American labor force as we transition to clean, renewable energy and a green economy. South Bay 350 Climate Action Coalition will be joining students from three high schools as part of the Youth Contingent at the 36th Annual Labor Day Parade in Wilmington.
One of the many false narratives that the fossil fuel industry (and those who profit from exploitation of Mother Earth) has advanced is that moving away from using oil, natural gas and/or coal will cost jobs and hurt the working community. In the meantime, it is laborers and front line communities consisting of working class and lower income families, who literally bear the brunt of our addiction to fossil fuels: from polluted air and contaminated water, to cancer clusters, to asthma rates for children as high as 25% in certain parts of Los Angeles County.
Steel and refinery workers face dangerous working conditions and are being asked to work longer shifts with less staff, even though these refineries and the dangerous chemicals inside of them are only steps away from schools, homes and businesses. The Los Angeles Harbor has the worst air quality in the United States. Thousands live and work in the Long Beach and Los Angeles Ports and local hospitals report that the number of patients suffering, and dying, from diseases related to poor air quality is only growing and that the patients are getting younger. Local teachers find that on many days, they cannot let children outside to play because of poor air quality. (And things are better than they were before efforts to limit pollution from gas powered vehicles and the successful Clean Trucks Program.)
At South Bay 350, we have picketed with the United Steel Workers in the Los Angeles Harbor for safer working conditions at refineries. We have stood with the California Nurses Association to demand better pay and more nursing staff at local hospitals. We have joined hundreds of organizations to support the Los Angeles Minimum Wage Coalition and a $15.00 per hour living wage for all workers.
Why would an environmental group support such issues? Because we believe in being good allies. We see the commonality in our goals. Everyone wants safe, good paying jobs and clean air and water. These are not mutually exclusive goals: they work together. A higher minimum wage means families can afford to live, work and play in the communities of their choice. This cuts down on commuting costs and boosts the local economy, which in turns help local schools. By standing together, we are all stronger when fighting against the corporate greed which would destroy our planet for short-term profit. As environmentalists, we must make sure that the transition to a green economy is a “just transition,” and that the fossil fuel industry is held responsible for the health effects of its products on its own workforce and for training its workers for new positions that will need to be filled to run solar and wind farms, install solar panels, etc. There is so much work to be done.
We are proud to stand with working people on Labor Day and every day. Because, to change everything, we need everyone. Please join us and march on Labor Day Parade in Wilmington, the “Heart of the Harbor.”
Check out our Facebook event page to RSVP: https://www.facebook.com/events/1467311353570291/