May Day in Philadelphia

I went yesterday, May 1, to the May Day USA Rally and Celebration in Elmwood Park, 71st Street and Buist Avenue in South West Philadelphia. This was sponsored by the Philadelphia Area Project for Occupational Safety and Health (PHILAPOSH), the May Day USA Education Committee, and the Pennsylvania Labor History Society (of which I’m a life member).

This is part of a movement to tell the true story of May Day, how it emerged from the Labor struggles in this country-in this case, the movement for the eight-hour work day in the Nineteenth Century and the Haymarket incident of May 1886, where labor activists were accused of taking part in the murder of policemen and were unjustly hanged, after a campaign of fear about “anarchists.”

We assembled around the Labor Monument, a series of brass stands designed like old union buttons, that were set up to commemorate the milestones of Labor History in the United States: Eugene V. Debs and his organizing railroad workers, the campaign against child labor, the founding of the IWW, the organizing of farm workers under Cesar Chavez, to name a few. We honored the work of Cathy Brady, longtime Labor and community activist who passed away last year, and who worked hard to have the Labor Monument installed in the park.

The commemoration for my friend and longtime Labor and Community activist, Cathy Brady.

Food was provided by the Veterans For Peace’s “Precision Grill Team.” Entertainment was provided by Xtreme Creations and hip-hop artist Joie Kathos. Poetry was provided by Irving Courrtley Jones and the The Bread Is Rising poetry collective. Kids’ activities were provided by the Philadelphia Child Care Collective.

I encourage you all to read the real story of May Day-beyond the Cold War scares of the “Communist Menace”-and of US Labor History in general.

Labor Seder at Germantown Jewish Center

Last night I attended the Second Annual Bobbi Willig Memorial Labor Seder, sponsored by the Philadelphia Chapter of the Jewish Labor Committee, held at the Germantown Jewish Centre, 400 W. Ellet Street. The theme of the Seder this year was “A woman’s Place Is In Her Union,” and we honored two outstanding labor women-Laura Wentz, past President of the Philadelphia chapter of the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW), and Nicole Fuller, Executive Director of the Philadelphia Area Project for Occupational Safety and Health (PHILAPOSH).

Rabbi Ari Witkin led the religious portion of the service. An estimated 60 to 70 people attended; these included representatives of Philadelphia CLUW, PHILAPOSH, UFCW Local 1776, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT), and a presentation by Cindy Heyward, Recording Secretary and Legislative Director of the Philadelphia Area Local, American Postal Workers Union (APWU).

The purpose of the Labor Seder is to commemorate the struggles of working and minority people in the world and the nation, tying them to the Passover story of the Israelites leaving oppression in Egypt. We had the custom of dipping out the drops of wine to remember the plagues that fell on Egypt-blood, frogs, lice, flies, pestilence, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, and the death of the first-born-along with plagues we suffer through today-child labor, slave labor, sweatshops, hunger, below-subsistence wages, sexism, racism, ethnic cleansing, domestic violence, and indifference to human suffering. (And these are not all the plagues we have in the world.) It’s always the rank-and-file people who suffer from the ignorance of their leaders.

Nicole Fuller, left, and Laura Wentz, honorees of the 2019 Labor Seder.

Workers’ Memorial Day

Workers’ Memorial Day, a day to honor the lives of workers who died on the job trying to make a living for themselves and their families-and a day to advocate for greater occupational health and safety measures-will take place in Philadelphia, at the Sheet Metal workers’ Hall, 1301 South Columbus Blvd., on Friday, April 26, 2019.

This event is sponsored by the Philadelphia Area Project for Occupational Safety and Health (PHILAPOSH) and the Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO.

We will begin with a breakfast and discussion about workers’ health and safety issues. After that, we will have a funeral procession, with Brian Wydlitz on the bagpipes. The procession will end at Penn’s Landing, where we will place flowers into the Delaware as we read the names of workers in the region who were killed on the job. This is a beautiful ceremony honoring someone’s father, friend, son, or brother. Please support the work of defending the right of workers to safe working conditions.

Upcoming, June 16, 2018

I will join members of my congregation, Leyv Ha-Ir (, in a 100% School Funding Day of Action in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, sponsored by Philadelphian Organized to Worship, Empower, and Rebuild (POWER,, here we’ll hold a rally in the State capitol Rotunda for equitable funding for schools in the state, through a “fair funding formula.” We ‘ll also march to Governor Tom Wolf’s office to pray for his support for such a funding plan. Our schools need funding for textbooks, building maintenance, teachers and other staff, libraries, computers-I could go on. Education is not a luxury, it is the great equalizer, the great source of personal and social empowerment.

The Philadelphia Unemployment Project (PUP,, will hold its Jazz Fest at the first Unitarian Church, 2125 Chestnut Street, on Friday, June 22. They will honor my friend Jim Moran, veteran Labor activist and Executive Director Emeritus of the Philadelphia Area Project for Occupational Safety and Health (PHILAPOSH,, and Wilson Chang, senior IT consultant at the University of Pennsylvania, who has provided IT services for PUP at no charge. (No small service, with the internet being such a part of our lives.) Music will be provided by the Weez The Peeples Collective, led by percussionist Karen Smith. Please contact PUP for tickets to this event. This is a great organization, honoring two great activists.