March 08, 2011
SAVE THE AMERICAN DREAM – Melinda Pearson of AFSCME Local 4001 (Minnesota Council 5) braves the cold to show her solidarity with Wisconsin state workers and teachers in their battle to retain their collective bargaining rights.
Photo Credit: Michael Kuchta
By the tens of thousands, activists from AFSCME and other unions, and supporters of workers’ rights, rallied at state capitols and cities in all 50 states on Feb. 26 to demonstrate their support for collective bargaining rights.
An estimated 50,000 people rallied nationwide to show their solidarity with Wisconsin state public service workers and teachers who are fighting to retain their right to collective bargaining. Another 40,000 followed the rallies online, reported MoveOn.org, a progressive advocacy group that organized the Saturday rallies in just four days.
The rallies, called the “Mobilization to Save the American Dream,” followed a vote the day before by the Wisconsin state Assembly. Lawmakers approved Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to strip most collective bargaining rights from most public employees and teachers. Firefighters and police officers would be exempted. The state Senate has not been able to vote on the bill after 14 courageous Democratic senators left the state in protest Walker’s union-busting scheme.
Here is a brief review of just some of the rallies where AFSCME activists made their voices heard.
Members of the Kansas Organization of State Employees (AFSCME/KOSE) joined more than 1,000 demonstrators at a Statehouse rally, waving signs such as “Unions Make Us Strong.” Many in the crowd wore red and white to show support for the issues facing Wisconsin and other states. Jane Carter, executive director of KOSE, said House Bill 2130, the “Paycheck Deception Bill,” was one of many proposals from Republican leaders that would hurt Kansas families. This bill restricts the use of funds collected, in part, through the state government’s payroll system as a result of paycheck deductions affirmatively authorized by a state employee for a non-partisan political action committee.
St. Paul, Minn.
Snow and freezing weather didn’t stop Melinda Pearson of AFSCME Local 4001 (Council 5) and more than 1,000 other workers and community supporters from rallying outside the state Capitol in St. Paul, chanting “Workers’ rights are human rights!” Among the speakers was Council 5 Exec. Dir. Eliot Seide, also an AFSCME International vice president: “Over the years, thousands of workers have fought and, indeed, died for the right to collectively bargain,” he said. “Collective bargaining is an American right. You can't have American democracy if you don't have a strong labor union movement.”
Santa Fe, N.M.
Several thousand activists marched to the statehouse to denounce Governor Walker’s assault on unions. Council 18 Pres. Andrew Padilla said the rally attracted a lot of non-union members and community supporters because they are sick and tired of politicians blaming workers for the nation’s woes and busting their unions. “The real cause of budget shortfalls is unregulated corporate greed and the citizens of New Mexico are saying ‘enough is enough.’”
More than 500 activists from Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA)/AFSCME Local 1000 and other unions rallied at the state Capitol. CSEA Pres. Danny Donohue, who is also an AFSCME International vice president, told the crowd. “It's about the working class around this country. It is about America. Governor Walker seems to have forgotten what democracy is all about.” Other speakers included CSEA Exec. Vice Pres. Mary Sullivan (also an International vice president) and CSEA Statewide Treas. Joe McMullen.