Rochester, N.Y.-- Rochester's 2011 Labor Day Parade officially started off around 11:00 in the morning on East Avenue near Alexander Street in the heart of the East End Business District. But in the minds of many of the participants who attend this annual ritual every September, this year's event really kicked-off years ago when workers began to see a progressive erosion of worker rights and an attack on the very nature of work itself.
The events earlier this year in Wisconsin and Ohio also played heavily on the minds of the local workforce this Labor Day-- evidenced by placards and chants that referenced an all-out assault on the middle-class and the inability for most to make ends meet.
"This kind of goes back to old times, when Labor Day was more of a protest than a celebration," Jim Bertolone, president of the Rochester and Genesee Valley Area Labor Federation, told a crowd of more than 200 people who gathered for a pre-parade rally.
The crowd's chants of "WE ARE ONE" and T-shirts proclaiming solidarity with Wisconsin workers emerged from union protests earlier this year over the Republican-led dissolution of that state's workers' access to collective bargaining. The overwhelming message of "Jobs, Jobs Jobs," and respecting workers rights reverberated throughout the streets of downtown Rochester at this year's Labor Day Parade.
It was a celebration of traditional sorts, marching bands, workers and their families, floats, and politicians too. But this year was very different-- it was one that had serious underpinnings burdened by a do-nothing GOP majority in the House, sky-high national unemployment and an fragile uncertain economy. Workers marching with their unions introduced themselves to each other along the parade route and asked spectators, "What do you want for your family? A Tea Party or the American Dream?"
Click on the video above to see a slide show from yesterday's events. All photography and video production by Ove Overmyer.