HARLEM, N.Y. — Music poured out of Local 79’s float as union members joined hundreds of other unions and community groups to march in the African American Day Parade September 19th.
Local 79’s float had its own DJ mixing tracks and some of the loudest speakers on Adam Clayton Powell Blvd. “Can I hear you, Local 79?” called out lead organizer and community activist Anthony Reed over the float’s microphone.
Over the last three years, Local 79 has been a regular part of the annual celebration. The union sponsors a float in the parade to show its respect to Harlem and the African-American community, and also to show that Local 79 includes many African-American faces. More than 70 percent of Local 79’s members are minorities, and 30 percent of the members are African-American.
“We like to show community boards and communities that our members are part of the neighborhood,” said John Delgado, business manager for Local 79. “We have a large number of members from the community in Harlem.”
That’s important because the union needs the support of neighborhoods — and the community boards that represent them — to bring new construction jobs to New York City. Large potential developments, that would hire many union workers, almost always need the approval of the community boards before work can start, because community boards have the power to approve or disapprove zoning changes, and large projects almost always need some kind of zoning variance.
“You can’t just come out when you want something,” said Reid. “They have to see that you are out there… We are working to bring labor and the community together.”