In hundreds of cities, thousands rally to show support for public sector workers
DAVID DOUGHERTY: On Monday, March 4, hundreds of rallies were held across the United States in support of justice for workers and the right to collective bargaining. Thousands of people are reported to have attended demonstrations, teach-ins, and vigils planned to take place in all 50 states as part of the “We Are One” campaign organized by unions and activist groups. The event was scheduled on the 43rd anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s death. Organizers note that he was struggling for many of the same rights as workers today, including the right to collective bargaining.
MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.: One thousand three hundred sanitation workers are on strike, and Memphis is not being fair to them.
KING: It is my hope that power for poor people will really mean having the ability and the aggressiveness to make the power structure of this nation say “yes” when they may be desirous of saying “no”.
DOUGHERTY: The civil rights leader was assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee, where he had been participating in an ongoing public sanitary workers strike. Demonstrators gathered across the country in both small towns and large cities. Some 5,000 workers belonging to miners unions traveled from various states to participate in a rally held in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania. Thousands more participated in rallies in New York and New Jersey. In Florida, one of many states facing proposals to weaken public workers rights, more than a dozen cities participated. Public sector workers also rallied at Hawaii’s state capital in Honolulu. In Washington, DC, an estimated 2,000 demonstrators marched on the DC offices of Koch Industries, a company whose billionaire CEO brothers, David and Charles Koch, have been accused of bankrolling a number of right-wing initiatives, including Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s campaign against public workers and collective bargaining. Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Detroit, Dallas, Phoenix, and many other cities also had sizable turnouts in Monday’s demonstrations. Across the country in recent months, numerous state governors and representatives have launched a legislative attack against public sector workers, with bills aimed at reducing or eliminating collective bargaining rights. Union workers aren’t the only people feeling the pressure of the reforms. Public education and health spending are also the targets of a number of bills that proponents assert are necessary for balancing the budget. However, more people are now asking why it is that working families are being told to bear the brunt of state and federal deficit costs, while large private corporations and high-earning individuals are proportionately paying significantly less. Thousands of demonstrators also gathered across Wisconsin in preparation for a state supreme court justice election to be held the next day, on Tuesday, April 5. The outcome of the vote will determine the political composition of the court, which could play an important role in future litigation between Wisconsin’s Republican governor and public sector unions. Republican leaders in Wisconsin continue to spar with a Dane County circuit court judge over a ruling that placed a temporary restraining order on the anti-collective bargaining bill that Governor Scott Walker signed into law on March 11. A movement to recall the senators who voted the provision into law is also getting popular support in Wisconsin, with state Democrats claiming that enough signatures have already been collected to begin recalling some Republican senators. On March 31, Ohio Governor John Kasich signed Senate Bill 5 into law, essentially eliminating collective bargaining rights for public workers. In response, a referendum movement seeking to reverse the decision in November elections later this year has been gaining momentum. As more states continue to introduce similar anti-labor legislation, unions and social movements are stepping up their organizing efforts and actions in order to protect workers’ rights and hold wealthy elites socially accountable. This is David Dougherty with The Real News Network.