Laborers, union organizers, and teachers were among those who took to Mission Street on Saturday in a parade honoring labor organizer Cesar Chavez. They chanted “si se puede,” carried signs representing various unions and schools, and reflected on social organizing.
Alexa Galan-Klaus, a literacy coach at Cesar Chavez Elementary School who walked with a group that included many children, said it’s key for kids to “feel like they have a voice in advocating for social change.”
“It’s always important to remember the power of bringing communities together in pride and peaceful demonstration,” said Avery Gerber, a teacher at Cesar Chavez Elementary school.
The day of the parade also marks the 100th day in office of a very different political figure: Donald Trump. His likeness made an occasional appearance in the parade – in one case attached, upside-down, to a model of the Golden Gate Bridge on one of the floats.
“He’s alienated everybody. You pick a group, and he’s made ‘em mad,” said Charlie Hernandez, business manager at the Ironworkers Local 377.
Nonetheless, he said, some union members supported Trump – but most are watching closely to see if he delivers on his campaign promises.
“He says he’s going to build infrastructure. Labor will listen to that, but the proof is in the pudding,” Hernandez said.
But beyond policy promises, Chavez’ legacy makes a stark contrast to the current political climate because of its emphasis on the collective and on mutual support, some in the parade said.
“Cesar Chavez was one of those who stood up for those that couldn’t speak up themselves,” said Dan Hung, a journeyman with the Sprinkler Fitters Local 483. “For someone to be born in America and speak up for others not from here is very admirable, thinking about the people, not ‘our country first’ or ‘us against them.’”
Bart Pantoja, Business Representative with the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades whose father and uncle worked in farm fields, pointed to Chavez’ work promoting human rights and fair wages.
“Many men and women like him believed in something better. Not just surviving in America, but thriving,” Pantoja said. “It does go against the Trumpisms out there – Bringing jobs back to America, that means paying a fair wage so people can live in more than shanties.”
Organizing, he said, is a key tool for laborers – a sentiment shared by many attending on Saturday.
“Having a strong sense of solidarity and community is really important during these times,” said Galan-Klaus.
As the parade came to a close on 24th Street, its crowd joined a street fair featuring food and music, but also dozens of organizations devoted to social justice and advocacy work.
More photos of the parade: