The excited father with his son and daughter blended right into the sea of red-clad fans at Nationals Park Friday night. Until Secretary of Labor Tom Perez walked out onto the mound and fired the ceremonial first pitch of the 8th annual Labor Night at the Nats.
But even as he realized a lifelong dream, Perez was thinking of workers, telling Union City that baseball “is about being able to spend time with your family” and noting that All Star player Daniel Murphy of the Mets “was able to take time off for the most important day of his life, the birth of his child. There’s a lot of people who can’t afford to do that. He had the ability to do that because his bargaining agreement said that you can take paid leave. That’s a poignant reminder of a right that baseball players have earned through collective bargaining that so many people don’t have because they don’t have a union contract.” Hosted by Metro Washington Council President Jos Williams, NoVA Labor President Dan Duncan and Labor Night at the Nats organizer Kathleen McKirchy, Perez and his kids mingled with players on the field before the game and joined the crowd in enthusiastically applauding AFSCME staffer Renee Barnes usual spirited rendition of the national anthem. In addition to a special Nats jersey with his name across the back, Perez sported a special made-in-the-US Nats cap presented to him by Duncan. Perez, Williams and Duncan watched the game from the stands among some of the nearly 5,000 union members who’d participated in the annual MWC-NoVA-sponsored fundraiser for CSA’s Emergency Assistance Fund. “It was a great night at the ballpark,” said Williams, “made even more memorable by having Tom join us.”
- report/photos by Chris Garlock