Alicia Dye | News Editor
Sept. 8, 2022
Thousands of people gathered in Downtown Pittsburgh to celebrate Labor Day and unions after a two-year hiatus due to Covid-19.
Pittsburgh has been hosting its annual Labor Day parade for almost 40 years and is one of the largest celebrations in the country, drawing over 50,000 people annually in past years.
The parade kicked off outside PPG Paints Arena, just blocks away from Duquesne University, and made its way down Grant Street, all the way to the United Steelworkers (USW) Building on Boulevard of the Allies.
The rain did not stop the almost 200 unions that walked during the parade, and an estimated 150,000 people attended the parade according to Darrin Kelly, president of Allegheny/Fayette Central Labor Council.
Floats and live music lined the streets as union workers marched through Downtown, with some floats endorsing political candidates and others representing the hard work the union represents.
Not only Pittsburgh residents joined in on the parade. Service Employees International Union (SEIU) member Kayla McDade traveled from Harmony, Pa., to march.
“I work at the Grove at Harmony, a nursing home,” McDade said. “I came here for my residents. They deserve the best from us, and having better labor practices would help us.
“We’re called heroes, yet we get paid nothing. Unions are so important to workers like us.”
SEIU workers also held signs that read “SEIU for Shapiro” as they marched throughout the city.
Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate and Attorney General Josh Shapiro, as well as his running mate for lieutenant governor, Austin Davis, were in attendance. They marched with union workers such as Laborers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA), who had signs reading “Laborers for Shapiro.”
Davis wanted to show his support for unions and the working class.
“We thought it was stronger for us to send a message that we’re always going to stand on the side of working people and working class folk,” Davis said.
Shapiro wanted to make sure that union workers will always have a place in Pennsylvania.
“These people matter,” Shapiro said. “They helped build Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania, and their rights are under attack, and I’ll always defend them.”
Davis believes that unions got him to where he is today.
“I’m here because of the union way of life,” Davis said. “It created a foundation for me and my family. We need to make sure we protect that foundation for people all across Pennsylvania.”
Shapiro was happy to be walking among union members, and to be meeting them as well.
“It’s inspiring [to walk with union members]. These members work hard. I’m so grateful for their support,” Shapiro said. “I’m going to be a governor who looks out for the women and men of organized labor.”
Some of the union members chanted, “Get up, get down, Pittsburgh is a union town” as they marched.
U.S senate candidate John Fetterman was also in attendance and marched with United Steelworkers of District 10, many of whom held signs reading “Steelworkers for Fetterman.”
While Shapiro, Davis and Fetterman were in attendance at the parade, President Joe Biden spoke at the United Steelworkers Building in West Mifflin to a small crowd about Labor Day and discussed his history with unions and why unions are important.
“The reason why I talk about unions is not just because it’s where I come from. It’s more than that,” Biden said. “You are the best trained, the most skilled workers in the world. You’re the best in the world.
“Wall Street didn’t build the middle class. Wall Street didn’t build America. Middle class built America and unions built the middle class. That’s just the fact.”
Fetterman also spoke in West Mifflin and took a stance against his republican opponent for the U.S. Senate, Mehmet Oz.
“I cannot think of anything more un-American than trying to take away the union way of life,” Fetterman said.
The parade honored Pittsburgh union leader Jack Shea, the former president of Allegheny-Fayette Central Labor Council, who died on Aug. 29. There was a photo of Shea at the end of the parade. There was also a bell rung and a moment of silence for Shea during the parade.
Biden also talked about Shea during his speech in West Mifflin.
“I want to say a word about a few good friends we lost, Jack Shea, [who] some of you knew and Pat Gillespie,” Biden said. “Both good friends, people I worked with my whole career.
“They had an attitude that could be summed up in one word, in my view …Everybody, everyone, no matter what your background, is entitled to be treated with unity, with respect.”
McDade was happy to see how many politicians were in support of unions.
“We work hard and it’s nice to see all the support,” McDade said. “We want better pay and they listen to us. It means a lot,”