Lines of cars filled the street in front of Wilmington’s Banning Park on Monday where Los Angeles unions held a massive “Labor of Love” food distribution event in place of their annual Labor Day Parade, a 40-year tradition canceled due to coronavirus precautions.
In place of the usual procession, normally filled with cars and motorcycles with union members and labor movement allies, masked and gloved members of more than 20 labor organizations directed traffic and filled trunks with boxes of food and other essentials, including canned goods and diapers.
“This is what we do every year, we honor Labor Day,” said Michael Erosa, a longshoreman and member of ILWU13. “We usually have a parade, but because of COVID-19 it was canceled this year. We usually finish right here and then we have the barbecues for families.”
This year, volunteers barbecued for volunteers, the ones loading the trunks of the more than 4,000 families’ cars expected at the drive-thru. Steve Grageda of Local 11 grilled hot dogs next to fellow barbecuers Erik Delgado and Joel Greenfield.
Cozette Scott of Fontana, whose husband William Scott is an organizer with Local 105, was helping direct traffic. Grateful for the overcast morning, she said, “It feels great to help out.”
“The majority are low-income families, they will come through for the fact that it’s kind of hard right now, especially through COVID-19, a lot of people lost their jobs,” said Erosa.
The drive-thru was organized by Labor Community Services and the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, in collaboration with the Los Angeles/Long Beach Harbor Labor Coalition. Through its partnership with Labor Community Services, the LA Fed has been able to give over 75,000 families food assistance since the beginning of the pandemic, according to a statement.
“It’s awesome, because we’re giving back,” said Christian Abito, a longshoreman with ILWU13. “We’re essential workers, and… we’re showing it’s all about giving back. Because we’ve got so much and it’s what you take in and now we’re overflowing and giving back to the community.”
“We are blessed, and because we are blessed to be able to work through this COVID-19, it’s a privilege to give back to the community,” Erosa added.