Matthew Kaplan Photography

Southeast Side Labor Day Parade - Chicago - September 3rd, 2022

For the first time since 2019, the Chicago Labor Day Parade marched proudly down Ewing Avenue, one of the mainstreets of Chicago's Southeast side. Once a bastion of the steelworkers union, the city's industrial 10th Ward has been hard hit economically and environmentally since the great mills were closed late in the last century.

This year, the labor movement showed signs of a renaissance as a host of younger workers and people of color, including many engaged in organizing Starbucks coffee shops, walked alongside representatives of the more traditional trade and industrial unions.

104 year old Bea Lumpkin, union organizer, professor, and activist, was the grand marshal of the event. Sporting a white steelworker's cap, she struck poses with a number of admirers before leading the parade in an orange low-rider convertible.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot marched down the street surrounded by a cadre of union carpenters, while a number of aspirants for her job also joined in the procession further back. Noticing former Illinois governor Pat Quinn gathering signatures with an aide, I asked him if he were running for Chicago mayor and was answered with a characteristic shrug and one word, "probably".

A major theme of this year's parade was "Vote Yes for Workers' Rights". An Illinois constitutional amendment, the Workers' Rights Amendment, is on the ballot this November. If passed it will guarantee workers in the state their rights to organize unions and bargain collectively. The climate for passage of such a measure looks better this November than it has in years.

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