Several hundred protesters against anti-union legislation converged on Love Park at noon on Saturday.
Those who couldn’t make it to Harrisburg to participate in the nationwide chain of demonstrations taking place in each capital city chose to bring their placards and petitions to Center City.
Protesters stood along 15th Street waving their signs, prompting drivers to press on their horns in solidarity as they chanted “The people united. We’ll never be defeated.” They stomped and cheered as a majority of the cars circling City Hall beeped and honked.
Most of the participants were longtime members of unions, though family members and supporters of the cause also came out.
One activist held a placard asking supporters to send pizza to the dedicated demonstrators in Wisconsin who have held out for weeks in protest of the proposed anti-union bill, which was passed early Friday morning.
The bill strips state employees of most of their collective bargaining rights.
The Republican-controlled Wisconsin State Assembly suddenly cut off debates to hold a vote at 1 a.m., preventing more than 25 percent of legislators from participating and prompting Democrats to chant “Shame, shame” from the floor, reported The New York Times.
Since Friday, 14 Democratic state senators have fled Wisconsin to prevent a vote on the bill. Democratic legislators in Indiana have followed their lead and have also left the state.
Many Philadelphians fear that New Jersey and Pennsylvania may follow Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana in proposing legislation that reduces the power of unions.
“Oh, absolutely,” said Sharon McCann, “New Jersey is next. Governor Christie doesn’t like unions.”
McCann has been a member of two teachers’ unions for 12 years, one in Philadelphia and one in New Jersey. McCann is afraid she will lose her job if a bill passes in the Garden State.
Her husband, Bill Holck, a member of the United Steelworkers for 20 years and an employee at the Delaware City Refinery, blames big business for the new wave of anti-union legislation.
“The corporate CEOs are trying to take too much of the pie. It’s how our country started, with a union. It’s in the first line of the Constitution.”
Their two daughters joined them at the rally. The elder, Amanda Holck, held a sign with “In order to form a more perfect union” written in huge colorful letters and statistics about income rates for union members on the back.
Protester Lisa Hagen carried a sign for the American 99ers Union, a group in support of 99ers, the long-term unemployed who have run out of benefits.
“There’s six million 99ers. That’s the people in homeless shelters. If there’s a family with two 99ers, they’re done,” said Hagen.
Though Americans can now apply for up to an extra 73 weeks of unemployment benefits after the standard 26, there are millions of former workers who have exhausted those funds.
The 99ers union lobbies legislators to promote a bill that would further extend benefits.
Around 1 p.m., the clapping and cheering swelled as a new group of protesters crossed 15th Street to parade through Love Park. Clad in orange and black, the demonstrators held pro-choice signs as they began a new chant.
The two demonstrations merged in the park for a new round of speeches by protest organizers.
The rally at Love Park eventually wound down as the pro-women protest continued its parade through Center City and the labor supporters dispersed in the late afternoon.