Backers say Philly labor rally not a protest of Democratic convention

Union officials say they expect thousands to gather in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art for a rally next month they insist is not planned to protest the Democratic National Convention.

There have been several reports that Ed Hill, national president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, wanted the Philadelphia gathering over anger that the Democrats planned their convention in Charlotte, N.C., a city with no union hotels in a right-to-work state.

Hill joined AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka at a Washington, D.C., news conference Thursday to say the rally is to promote a workers agenda for the country, dubbed the “second bill of rights.”

“This is not intended, nor was it ever in any way, a slap at the Democratic convention in Charlotte,” Hill said.

Hill explained that the idea for the Philadelphia event was discussed at an AFL-CIO meeting where some complained about the selection of Charlotte.

“One didn’t germinate the other one. They happened to take place at the same meeting,” Hill said. “Whenever it came out, people put them together and said X led to Y. That’s simply not the case.”

The labor leaders said they enthusiastically back President Obama, though Hill said he won’t attend the early September convention in Charlotte. He acknowledged he was unhappy with the selection of the convention city.

Trumka said the Philadelphia rally will begin a campaign to get political leaders to sign on to the agenda, which calls for full employment at living wages, affordable health care, quality public education, and the right to unionize.

“A great nation is measured by the level of opportunity that it provides and affords its citizens,” Trumka said. “A great nation is measured by how its citizens share in the prosperity it produces.”

Officials said they hope to see as many as 30,000 supporters at the Philadelphia rally, set for Saturday, Aug. 11, on the Ben Franklin parkway.

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