Marching Across California to Restore the American Dream

April 23, 2010

March for California
RALLY AT THE CAPITOL – Thousands rally in Sacramento at the April 21 conclusion of the “March for California’s Future,” a 48-day walk from Bakersfield to demonstrate the need to preserve public services. (Photo credit: Steve Yeater)

A massive demonstration at the state Capitol in Sacramento on April 21 heralded the end of the 48-day March for California’s Future, but the marchers’ fight to preserve public services and education has only just begun.

Thousands participated in the 365-mile march, sponsored by AFSCME Councils 36 and 57UDW Homecare Providers Union, the Coalition of LA City Unions, the California Federation of Teachers (CFT), and other education and civil society groups.

Seven hardy individuals set out to make the entire journey on foot, and six succeeded, including Irene Gonzalez, vice president on the executive board of L.A. County Deputy Probation Officers Local 685 (AFSCME Council 36).

“Our message of restoring quality public education and public services, rebuilding a government that serves all Californians, and creating a fair tax system to fund our state’s future has found real resonance here in Sacramento and throughout the Central Valley,” says Gonzalez, a senior investigator aide and reserve deputy probation officer for Los Angeles County.

The need to protect public services from drastic budget cuts was the purpose of the march, which began March 5 with arally in Los Angeles. Buses then transported hundreds to Bakersfield for the official start of the walk through the state’s Central Valley. It followed the course led in 1965 by California civil rights and labor leader Cesar Chavez, who focused a national spotlight on striking grape pickers.

Hundreds of AFSCME members, firefighters, police officers, nurses, in-home care workers, students and their supporters joined Gonzalez and the other marchers along the way. At each stop, they drew media attention to the urgent need to support quality public education, rebuild state government and restore a fair and equitable tax system that invests in California’s future.

Once in Sacramento, more than 10,000 marchers and their supporters rallied at the Capitol. Doug Moore, executive director of UDW Homecare Providers Union, an AFSCME affiliate, addressed the crowd. “We will not restore the California dream by the end of this march, or by the end of this legislative period,” declared Moore, also an AFSCME International vice president. “But I promise, if we band together we can restore the American dream for all Californians.”

The day after the rally, marchers delivered to lawmakers a $40 billion package of revenue solutions that would permanently balance the state’s budget without cutting public services. Among the proposals:

  • Impose an oil severance tax and an alcohol tax
  • Close existing corporate tax loopholes
  • Stop multinational corporations from using offshore tax havens
  • Restore high-income tax brackets to levels that existed under Republican governors Ronald Reagan and Pete Wilson

Lawmakers also honored the marchers and their supporters with a resolution introduced by Assemblyman Marty Block (D-San Diego). The measure recognizes the marchers and adopted key points of their march.

Read news coverage of the final day of the march from City on a Hill Press and the Associated Press. Also, check out Gonzalez’ essay from The Huffington Post.

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