Union picnic celebrates togetherness

first_imgThere were dockworkers, teachers, building trade workers, nurses, Hollywood screenwriters and truck drivers in a diverse showing of labor solidarity. Booths offered information on issues such as universal health care and bringing U.S. troops home from Iraq. T-shirts and signs emblazoned with popular slogans were everywhere: “A War Budget Leaves Every Child Behind”; “Labor: We Have the Power”; “United Teachers: Teach Peace and Justice”; “Radical Women”; “A Woman’s Place is in Her Union”; “West Coast Longies on the Waterfront.” Petitions were passed, and voters were registered. Political candidates were also present. At least two Democratic presidential hopefuls, Dennis Kucinich and John Edwards, had volunteers manning tables with bumper stickers and brochures and pins. Passing out Edwards material, Becky Bayless of Harbor City said the campaign was buoyed by the announcement earlier in the day of two major labor union endorsements. From the stage there was music by the Brian Young Blues Station Band interspersed with spirited speeches. Hot dogs and soft drinks and bottles of water were served up by the hundreds. “It’s like a big family,” said Valles, whose husband is a member of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. “There are a lot of (union) stereotypes, but everyone here takes care of each other.” With contracts for more than 200,000 Los Angeles area workers set to be renegotiated soon, there was no shortage of fervor at this year’s party. “It’s a big year with all the contracts coming up,” said ILWU International Vice President Joe Radisich, who also serves on the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners. The ILWU’s contract will be renegotiated in 2008, a process that will be closely watched after the 2002 negotiations resulted in an employer lock-out that virtually shut down the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach for 10 days. Billions of dollars in imports sat stranded on ships in the harbor, and the economic ramifications were felt for months. While some ILWU workers predict a smoother process this time, Radisich said the union is taking nothing for granted. “We need to hope for the best but prepare for the worst,” he said. The ILWU will hold its first caucus in late January, formally kicking off the union’s negotiation season. On a broader scope, national health care and anti-war messages went over well from the stage. “There’s something wrong with this country,” said Joshua Pechthalt, vice present of United Teachers of Los Angeles, who criticized national spending on the Iraq war rather than on providing health care. “It’s time we get better organized and get our people into the streets. We need to make our children and our seniors the priority they should be in this society.” But mostly, families just came to enjoy an extra day off from work and some camaraderie, despite the almost unbearable heat. John and Kim Ollie of San Pedro found a spot in the shade beneath a large tree near the stage. “It’s good to see everyone without work on their mind,” said ILWU worker John Ollie. “It’s all about the brothers and sisters.” Temperatures hovered around 100 degrees in Wilmington on Monday, according to weather reports. That’s bad enough. But taking into effect factors like humidity (which had climbed to 37 percent by the afternoon), solar intensity and wind speed, the “real feel” temperature was more like 107, according to the AccuWeather Web site. “Everybody who came out today for this parade and picnic has to be a true believer,” said Bob Schoonover, one of the speakers from the stage. But as the heat continued to rise, the Ollies already were planning the rest of their free afternoon. They soon would be heading out for San Pedro’s Point Fermin Park atop the south-facing ocean cliffs. Temperatures there managed to stayed remarkably cooler throughout the long, steamy weekend. [email protected] local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Even so, labor union members spent Monday wiping their brows. Thanks to the sticky, miserable heat wave hovering over the South Bay, thousands of workers enjoying the day off had to cope with abnormally high temperatures Monday at the traditional labor union picnic in Wilmington. “It’s a good thing this is a park with a lot of trees,” remarked Vanessa Valles of San Pedro after staking out her family’s spot with a blanket under a huge tree in Banning Park. Longtime longshore union official David Arian, meanwhile, headed straight for a tower of dripping bags of ice to lean against as he made a telephone call. But despite the heat, the crowds appeared as big as ever for the parade into the park and the rally and picnic afterward. Several Los Angeles area unions come together for the event each year to celebrate the labor union movement while having a bit of fun on a day off. WILMINGTON: The annual event serves up spirited speeches, fun. By Donna Littlejohn STAFF WRITER They weren’t laboring on Labor Day. last_img read more