Christmas Parade 2017: A Success for Columbia CLC!

Columbia CLC participation in the 2017 Columbia Christmas Parade came off as a success according to CLC President Sandy Squirewell and SC AFL-CIO Pres. Erin McKee, compared to the last few years where a lack of participation hurt the entry.  McKee was among those who walked in this year's event and helped to carry a banner.

Those walking carried a total of 5 banners, bearing everything from the AFL message, to the CLC banner bearing the AFL mantra, "From the People Who Brought You the Weekend" to one stating that "Right to Work = Low Wages."  

Included in the mix this year were the Democratic Socialists of America Organization from the University of South Carolina, who brought their own banner.

New in this year's parade participation was the manner of candy distribution.  CLC volunteers had discussed the possibilities for years and this year a handful of volunteers, including CLC members as well as friends, stuffed 600 little plastic bags, each with 5 pieces of candy, mostly union-produced candy.  On each bag was placed a sticker with a pro-labor message, "From South Carolina's Union Families, Happy Holidays!"

Squirewell was pleased with the turnout for the entry.  She brought several family members with her to walk, including grandchildren.  "Next year we need twice as many of those little bags so we won't be empty handed for part of the parade, and we'll reach thousands of children and their parents."

CLC Parade Project Coordinator William Christopher was excited the morning of the parade, along with all of the participants. "It was a lot of work stuffing all of those bags and some of our hands were cramped for a day or two, but in the end we reached 600 kids, and their parents, for a total of around 1500-1600 people, each of whom received our pro-labor message.  But we ran out long before the parade ended," he said.

CLC Vice President Donna Dewitt(also SC AFL-CIO Pres. Emeritus) said, "This is a great PR opportunity for unions, in a state where the labor movement has suffered from more than 30 years of negative propaganda. This year we had a truck as well as people walking and some people had the chance to ride instead of walking. And the large door magnets we just got for the truck clearly told people exactly who we were."

The theme of this year's Columbia Parade was "A Superhero Christmas."  CLC member Harold Geddings(SMART 399 ) led the entry, wearing a red cape along with his work uniform he uses to do sheetrock construction at Savannah River Site and other locations.  He has participated in the parade before, as well as the annual Labor Day Parade in Chapin, SC, and said he was glad to see some people finally turning out to support the CLC entry and hoped for an even bigger group next year.

The event was a perfect example of a team effort and was aided by the "Friends of Cola. CLC"--supporters who aren't union members.  Squirewell and others brought in family members and friends to boost the parade.  Christopher said that the new Chevy truck was loaned by Marv Ward, well-known local blues musican and school district retiree who wanted to support the cause.  And 18-year-old Myra Jackson recently returned from treatment at St. Jude Children's' Hospital along with her mother Lynn Carpenter but they still had the energy to help with the candy preparation.  "I read where unions help to balance the system of capitalism and it seems like an idea that makes sense, plus community members supported me and my hospital benefit," said Myra. "It takes people working together to make positive things happen."

Christopher added, "During the parade there were so many parents pointing and shouting 'Merry Christmas.' I was driving the truck with the CLC magnets on the doors and I could see the intense looks in peoples' eyes, staring right at us as they nodded their heads in approval.  I think a lot of them were surprised to see us there but they saw our banners including the one about Right to Work equaling low wages and they were giving us a lot of thumbs up. This year they knew who we were and they had a reminder to take home."