Hundreds of people attended the annual Labor Day Picnic and Celebration in Colonie on Monday to support local labor and union groups, while munching on hamburgers and hot dogs under the sun.
The Solidarity Committee of the Capital District’s picnic at Cook Park brought together adjunct professors from the College of Saint Rose, gubernatorial candidates and supporters, and local residents just looking to have fun on Labor Day.
“This event is great because it brings together unions and people in the community,” said Albany County Legislator Doug Bullock, who organized the picnic. “We are honoring some wonderful people here today who have done a lot in the area.”
Two months ago, adjunct professors at the College of Saint Rose in Albany filed to form a union with Adjunct Action, a project of Service Employees International Union. Hundreds of professors at the school are calling for better benefits and a higher salary.
Ballots will be mailed out Friday to vote for the union, with results expected Sept. 23.
Signs were displayed during the picnic Monday highlighting the effort. One sign at the entrance to the park off Lincoln Avenue read, “Adjunct Faulty: Low Pay, No Benefits, Zero Job Security. Time For A Change.”
Bradley Russell, an adjunct instructor of anthropology, has worked with fellow adjuncts throughout the summer organizing to form a union. He believes they will succeed with that goal.
“The local labor community is so awesome, and we are supporting each other with strength in numbers,” Russell said while holding a paper plate with potato salad. “We are well on track to a victory. We are going to win. We are going to win this.”
During the picnic, the Solidarity Committee of the Capital District honored Russell for his organizing work
“It’s awesome to get a pat on the back,” he said.
Other groups with tables at the picnic include Project SALAM (Support and Legal Advocacy for Muslims), People of Albany United for Safe Energy and the Albany County Central Federation of Labor. Tables were also set up for gubernatorial candidates Howie Hawkins and Zephyr Teachout. Teachout and her running mate, Tim Wu, are facing a Democratic Primary against Andrew Cuomo and his lieutenant governor candidate, Kathy Hochul, on Sept 9.
Hawkins, the Green Party nominee for governor, stopped by in the afternoon after walking in the Labor Day parade at the New York State Fair in Syracuse.
Local politicians including state Sen. Neil Breslin, D-Delmar, and Assemblyman Phil Steck, D-Colonie, were also in attendance. Both said they go to the picnic every year and look forward to talking with residents.
Breslin did more than socializing, though. He stood outside next to a hot grill, making hundreds of hamburgers and hot dogs. He said he only dropped one hamburger in five hours.
“I got here at 10:30 in the morning, and there’s more than 600 hamburgers and hot dogs to cook,” Breslin said of the event, which ran from noon to 5 p.m. “It’s a great annual party.”
Breslin said he prefers making and serving food because it makes him one of the most popular people at the picnic.
“I’m just the cook,” he said, laughing, while holding a giant spatula in the air, “but that also means everyone has to come up to me.
“I enjoy it, it’s a fun time.”