PHILADELPHIA – Union members planned to turn out by the thousands Saturday to support a second bill of rights for the American worker and express their disappointment in the Democratic Party for holding its national convention in North Carolina, a state they claim is decidedly unfriendly to unions and their goals.
Organizers of "Workers Stand for America" said they expect upward of 20,000 people to attend the all-day event in Philadelphia that will bring in working families from Pennsylvania and neighboring states for speeches by Democratic lawmakers, a concert by Lucinda Williams and rallies with AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and other unions.
Scores of workers dressed in green, orange and yellow T-shirts, some of them holding American flags, began arriving early Saturday next to the Philadelphia Art Museum steps made famous in the movie "Rocky." The event begins next to the museum at Eakins Oval on Benjamin Franklin Parkway and will feature the introduction of what organizers call "America's Workers Second Bill of Rights."
Prominent labor leaders created the rally after what they said was their lack of input into planning for the 2012 Democratic Convention in Charlotte, N.C., which is set to begin Sept. 4.
Unions have long been a key ally for Democrats. They gave $8.3 million toward the 2008 convention in Denver that helped President Barack Obama win the White House.
Labor officials say that longstanding friendship won't change -- nor will their support for Obama. But many are refusing to contribute money to a convention in a state that bans collective bargaining for teachers and other public workers.
Ed Hill, president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and a native of western Pennsylvania, said Philadelphia was chosen for its location and its union support.
"We consider this a good strong union state," said Hill, who grew up in Beaver County. "The issues that are affecting working men and women around the country are affecting people here, all over the state."
Hill said he is expecting 20,000 to 30,000 people to attend.
Rick Smith, a Communications Workers of America member and union activist from Carlisle, said several buses are heading to the event from central Pennsylvania, including those sponsored by AFSCME, the IBEW and the Teamsters. Smith planned to attend as well.
"This is much like the tea party started out to be," Smith said Friday. "These are people who are tired of being screwed over."