Plans to sharply curtail collective bargaining for public employees have generated a political backlash as hundreds of thousands of working people massed in more than 1,000 cities April 2-8 to rally, leaflet, and march for workers’ rights.
Most of the events took place April 4 in commemoration of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., who was killed 43 years ago while supporting striking sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee.
Union workers are tired of being scapegoats for the dismal state of the economy while Wall Street executives, bankers and their corporate allies “the ones who actually caused the financial crisis” go unscathed, raking in billions in profits and bonuses. Many of the GOP politicians elected last November nationwide were supported financially by the super rich, and union officials are convinced their agenda is to bust all unions.
At rallies in downtown Portland April 4 and in Blaine, Washington April 2, Oregon AFL-CIO President Tom Chamberlain said union members today are walking the same path that Dr. King and Rosa Parks walked decades ago when they fought for civil rights. Nearly 1,000 people attended the Portland event, while an estimated 2,000 gathered at Peace Arch State Park at the U.S.-Canadian border for an international solidarity rally.
One of the largest turnouts in the country was April 8 in Olympia, where some 10,000 union members flooded the steps of the State Capitol to urge lawmakers to close tax loopholes instead of cutting back on public services. A keynote speaker was Wisconsin Democratic state Sen. Spencer Coggs, one of the “Wisconsin 14” who left the state to try to slow Gov. Scott Walker’s move to gut collective bargaining rights for public-sector workers. The day before, 17 protesters from SEIU Healthcare were arrested after trying to get into Gov. Chris Gregoire’s office to protest her proposed budget cuts.