Hate group a threat to Philadelphia workers


When the neofascist, racist, anti-trans, book-banning group Moms for Liberty comes to Philadelphia for their national summit June 29-July 2, those most at risk will be the workers at hotels, libraries, restaurants and other venues where M4L plans to meet.

For weeks activists have protested outside the Philadelphia Downtown Marriott, calling on the hotel to cancel the reservation of this known hate group and urging people to call the Marriott with the same message. At the Philadelphia Pride march June 4, speakers alerted the thousands gathered there to the danger of this upcoming convention, which features Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis and other GOP presidential candidates as speakers.

This would be the first time Trump holds a rally in Philadelphia.

Participants in protest outside Museum of the American Revolution, Credit: Joe Piette

While UNITE HERE has attempted to organize a union for Marriott workers, pushback from management derailed the efforts. Speakers at protests outside the Marriott have raised that many of the workers are Black, Brown and LGBTQ. Without union protection, their jobs are on the line if they speak out against M4L.

The week before Memorial Day, through anonymously leaked news, workers at the Museum of the American Revolution (MAR) first learned their bosses had agreed to host the opening “Welcome to Philadelphia” reception for M4L. The workers hadn’t been told earlier, even though the contract was negotiated in December 2022. (Philadelphia Gay News, June 5)

Speaking at a rally outside the museum on June 9, Jazmyn Henderson with Act Up Philadelphia said: “When we protest somewhere, we think about the workers. The MAR told its workers that they aren’t allowed to make a statement opposing the M4L event there June 29, but we know that the workers are 100% against it.

“This group is classified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as extremist, yet MAR management says: ‘We want to give everybody the right to speak.’ As a trans woman, my identity is not your opinion. To make this an equal situation, MAR’s ‘both sides are able to speak’ ignores the reality that one side wants to live free and unoppressed, while the other wants to take our rights away.

“This is not about money. Less than 1% of MAR revenue comes from hosting events. They don’t lose anything by canceling.”

Philadelphia Gay News reported that the negative reaction of MAR staff, which includes employees who are members of the LGBTQ community, was “immediate and extreme. Not only did the employees individually voice their objections to the administrative staff, a petition was quickly pulled together, signed by over 60% of the museum staff and submitted to the museum President and CEO, Dr. R. Scott Stephenson.”

PGN reported that a general open forum was called after Memorial Day, where all employees and staffers at every level could attend and voice their concerns. The forum was attended by Stephenson and by most of the museum’s senior administrators. According to staff, the forum was highly emotional, given that many staffers are LGBTQ.

PGN noted that “several people spoke, sometimes tearfully, of how threatened they felt and how Moms for Liberty’s open agenda was the antithesis of Museum of the American Revolution’s own stated values, which includes among other things ‘integrity, empathy and inclusivity.’”

Concerns by staffers of M4L’s widespread reputation as a hate group were dismissed by management. Unfortunately, workers at the museum are not unionized.

Unions can protect workers

Speaking at the June 9 rally, Liz Gardiner, eight years a children’s librarian and union member of AFSCME DC47 Local 2186, stated: “We need a union for workers at this museum. Not only is the Museum of the American Revolution allowing Moms for Liberty into their space, they are welcoming them, which puts museum workers at risk, the exhibits at risk, and everyone in and around this space at risk.”

Mobile billboard truck, courtesy of Defense of Democracy, circled through the city with messages exposing Moms for Liberty. Credit: Joe Piette

“We don’t want M4L in our libraries derailing our mission to let children become all they can be. There will be over 70 Pride events at all 54 library locations in Philly. They [M4L] have called the library administration and basically said ‘we’re going to f–- things up in your city.’”

Prior to the rally, Workers World spoke with librarian Shelley Rosen who organizes programming and manages collections at Center City libraries, including the Barbara Gittings Gay and Lesbian collection. “LGBT stuff is very much my domain,” said Rosen, a member of Local 2187, AFSCME DC 47.

M4L has already stated they will be staging actions at the libraries closest to their convention, including the Independence Library, the Philadelphia City Institute in Rittenhouse Square and Parkway Central on Vine Street.

Rosen told WW how library workers dealt with the administration when their guidelines for workers’ safety were fuzzy. “Union members set up a safety planning working group. We wrote internal guidance and a solidarity statement. Then we went to the administration, having done all the work, and they were very receptive. In the end we are getting all we asked for to be safe.”

Rosen encouraged all library supporters to support workers at the most targeted branches, to attend as many of the library Pride events as possible and show up in bright, colorful Pride colors. She noted that all the [anti-Pride] threats received so far are from people living outside of Philadelphia.

Bucks County Pennsylvania, north of Philadelphia, has been ground zero for M4L’s right-wing attacks.

Keith Willard, a history and social studies teacher in the school district there for 23 years, addressed the June 9 rally. Willard is gay and has openly kept a picture of their husband on their desk.

“For the last two years M4L people have made the lives of teachers and students miserable,” Willard said. “What galvanizes M4L is their false narrative that schools are indoctrinating kids, a false narrative about pornography in schools. If there isn’t a ‘problem,’ they don’t have an agenda to organize around, and they become irrelevant.

“First it was anti-masks,’ said Willard, “now they have found something ‘wrong with the schools.’ If they can’t find a problem, they will fabricate one. They are irresponsible and dangerous. When enough people spread these lies, people believe them.”

It is clear that when M4L says they are trying to protect kids, they are not including trans kids, not LGTBQ+ kids, and not Black and Brown kids.

Two transgender youth speakers addressed the June 9 rally. Noble Henderson, age 17, said: “I’ve been doing research on what the Nazis did — they burned books, wanted to ban them, wanted to erase different people out of history. M4L does these Nazi things. How does history make sense if the MAR hosts fascists.”

Period actor with message for Museum of the American Revolution, Philadelphia, June 9, 2023. Credit: Joe Piette

Ethan Garrity, age 16, said: “When children are not taught critical thinking, it’s false obedience. We see bigots coming to Philly and trying to control what every child can read. They would keep [Hitler’s] Mein Kampf but ban [the graphic anti-Nazi novel] ‘Maus’ by Art Spiegelman. They claim concern over overt sex in books, yet they would keep ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ but ban ‘This Book is Gay.’”

Not enough to just oppose M4L

Unless workers have a union to protect them, as is the case for librarians and some teachers, they stand to be harmed by M4L’s presence in Philadelphia.

“But it’s not enough to just oppose M4L,” Dom Shannon with the Young Communist League said. “We need to demand unions for queer people, raise that queer people are part of the working class. They need good, livable wages, housing and equality.”

Moms for Liberty is not welcome in Philadelphia!  Ron “don’t say gay” DeSantis is not welcome in Philadelphia!  And Trump has never been welcome in Philadelphia. This is no exception!

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