COVID-19 waylays political tradition; Detroit Labor Day march canceled amid health concerns

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

The Metro Detroit AFL-CIO has canceled this year's annual Labor Day day march in Detroit due to concerns regarding the potential spread of the coronavirus pandemic, putting a dent in a presidential election year tradition. 

The parade from the old Tiger Stadium site down Michigan Avenue to Hart Plaza usually features the Democratic presidential candidate or a high-profile surrogate because of the party's tight ties to organized labor.

Former President Bill Clinton walks with the crowd during the Labor Day parade.

In 2016, former President Bill Clinton walked the procession instead of his wife Hillary, the party's nominee. President Donald Trump drew the support of some union members and scored a 10,704-vote win, becoming the first Republican to win Michigan since 1988. 

President Barack Obama spoke in 2008 at the Labor Day parade and again in 2011. Vice President Joe Biden spoke in 2012 and 2014, and this year is the Democratic Party's presumptive nominee. 

Last year, none of the more than 20 Democratic candidates participated in the march and one contingent of UAW workers planned to march in protest amid an ongoing probe of the labor union. 

This year, the organization is working to produce replacement events that are partially or fully online to continue the "celebration of solidarity while staying safe and healthy."

“2020 will continue to look different for a lot of folks in Michigan, but we are committed to using all the tools at our disposal to continue to organize working folks this year,” Metro Detroit AFL-CIO President Daryl Newman said in a statement. 

A major replacement event will be announced closer to Labor Day, Newman said. 

The state AFL-CIO is set Wednesday to kick off a 12-week Solidarity Summer series with U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Holly, to discuss the safe reopening of the economy in Michigan.