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Local Labor Leaders Upset By Parade Route, Plan To Protest DNC

With Independence Day in the rearview mirror, Charlotte parade lovers must wait until Labor Day for their next fix. But this year, Labor Day coincides with the start of Democratic National Convention festivities, and that has some local union leaders chafing. The annual Labor Day Parade along Tryon Street in Uptown Charlotte is particularly meaningful to local union workers because North Carolina has the lowest rate of union participation in the nation. And now, they're feeling sidelined by the political party they've long supported financially and considered an ally, says Cindy Foster. "To have (the Labor Day parade) be disrupted and changed for the sole purpose of the convenience of the DNC is very disturbing to us," says Foster, who is president of the Southern Piedmont Central Labor Council and AFL-CIO in the Charlotte area. A late-stage decision to hold the Democratic National Convention kick-off festival Uptown, rather than at the Speedway, means Labor Day marchers will be relegated to the Second Ward parade route established for protest groups. City permit officials had already told Labor Day Parade organizers public march attracting thousands of onlookers "would not be logistically feasible" on Tryon Street this year because of DNC security. But the city's concern apparently did not extend to a festival linked to the convention itself and expected to draw tens of thousands of people. The DNC host committee has received city permission to close Tryon between Stonewall and Fifth Streets for the Labor Day convention kick-off. Cindy Foster says the DNC should have found a way to showcase the Labor Day Parade, rather than displacing it. "I think it's just sort of one more, knock to the labor organization in this area," says Foster. That sentiment isn't universally shared: the chairman of the Labor Day Parade is just happy the parade will still happen. But there's a clear divide within the state's labor movement. While many union leaders will be party delegates at the Democratic National Convention, several dozen, including Foster, have formed a coalition to protest during it. Their beef is not with President Barack Obama, but with what they see as the failure of the Democratic Party to support the working American. "My biggest concern in this election year is that the Democrats and the Republicans both represent Wall Street and the 99% of us have nobody that represents us," says coalition member Richard Koritz, a member of the North Carolina Executive Board of the National Association of Letter Carriers. The group is calling itself the "Labor Coalition of the Carolinas to Oppose Corporate Politics." It promises to mobilize a working class "fight-back" that will link up with a broader coalition already planning large-scale protests during the DNC.