How to celebrate Labor Day 2017 in Pittsburgh

The Downtown parade is about labor, not politics, an organizer said.

Dmitri Beljan / Flickr
Rossilynne Culgan

Updated: 2:50 p.m. 

Pittsburgh’s Labor Day Parade — among the largest in the nation — is focusing on two major themes Monday: Power and unity.

Those words make up this year’s parade slogan: “Organizing = power & unity.”

“It’s about family. It’s about community. It’s about people seeing old friends,” said parade chairman Steve Mazza, a member of the Allegheny County Labor Council Executive Board and a council representative for the Keystone Mountain Lakes Regional Council of Carpenters.

“It’s about seeing what working families are all about and why we stick together. … About fighting for jobs, fighting for families, it’s what we do.”

Organizers try to make the event as “non-political as possible,” he said, adding the focus is labor, not politics.

Parade-goers will see 200 groups march, including at least 150 affiliates of the AFL-CIO, along with building trades and bands. Between 60,000 and 100,000 people are expected to attend, including Gov. Tom Wolf, per his spokesman J.J. Abbott.

Courtesy of Steve Mazza

Pittsburgh has a long tradition with advocacy for labor rights. (If you’re interested in Pittsburgh’s labor history, check out these archives from Pitt.)

“The steelworkers fought for it way back then,” Mazza said. “We’re always working for living family wages. We believe every family deserves that.”

For Mazza, his role in parade planning has a kismet connection. Peter J. McGuire, also a carpenter, is credited with starting the carpenters’ union and helping to create Labor Day.

“He was a carpenter, so that makes me feel special by being part of it, running the parade,” he said.

Pro tips for parade-goers:

  • The best spots to watch are along Grant Street and the Boulevard of the Allies.
  • Bring chairs, and stay hydrated.
  • The parade goes on rain or shine.
  • Keep your camera close at hand because these industrial floats are Instagram-worthy.

Also marking Labor Day in the city: A rally in support of unions, a speak out in Oakland, and a picnic for academic workers. The Pittsburgh Democratic Socialists of America is involved with the rally and a film screening.

“I think across the country, labor rights are under attack,” Pittsburgh DSA co-chair Arielle Cohen said. “It’s an imperative for all of us to stand up for one another and to build strength.”

On the calendar

A Labor Day rally and speak out in Oakland

Two events in Oakland, called "On Labor Day: Fight For the Pittsburgh We Want," will kick of Labor Day in Pittsburgh. Members of the following groups will rally in support of unions at the Forbes Avenue McDonalds at 7 a.m.: Pittsburgh Democratic Socialists of America, Education Rights Network, Hospital Workers Rising, Fight for 15 PA, One Pennsylvania, United Home Care Workers of PA and Pittsburgh UNITED. After that, a 7:30 a.m. speak out will occur at the Cathedral of Learning on Bigelow Boulevard. Bus transit will be provided to the Downtown parade.

Where:Various locations in Oakland

When:September 4, 2017 from 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

See one of the nation’s biggest Labor Day parades

Watch as 200 organizations march through the streets of Pittsburgh on Labor Day. The parade route begins near PPG Paints Arena, travels down Sixth and Fifth Avenues, along Grant Street and then to Boulevard of the Allies, ending near the United Steelworkers building along Stanwix Street.

Where:Various locations Downtown

When:September 4, 2017 from 10:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

A picnic for academic workers

Academic workers are invited to participate in a picnic hosted by the Union of Pitt Faculty, USW Local 1088 (representing adjunct faculty and Point Park and Robert Morris), and Pitt Graduate Student Organizing Committee. Participants are invited to learn more about the campaign, along with other workers interested in unions.

Where:Schenley Park at Camp David Lawrence shelter (Squirrel Hill)

When:September 4, 2017 from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Watch the film ‘Pride’ at a Labor Day screening

The Pittsburgh Democratic Socialists of America will host a screening of the 2014 comedy-drama "Pride." The film chronicles the story of the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners campaign and documents the support LGBT activists gave to the 1984 British miners' strike.

Where:Mik Pappas Campaign Office at 5112 Penn Ave. (Bloomfield)

When:September 4, 2017 from 6:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.