These events and countless others across the Commonwealth were part of a massive show of solidarity that included over 1,200 actions nationwide. Union members, people of faith, elected officials, students, small business owners, the NAACP and dozens more allied organizations together showed a tremendous will to fight on behalf of working people.
To quote Dr. King’s famous “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech delivered on the eve of his death:
“We’ve got to give ourselves to this struggle until the end. Nothing would be more tragic than to stop at this point… We’ve got to see it through. Either we go up together, or we go down together.”
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Over 60 union and community activists joined together at Kiwanis Park in downtown Abingdon in a morning rally to kick off April 4’s We Are One day of action. In a number of moving speeches, religious leaders, our friends with Virginia Organizing, and labor leaders honored Dr. King’s legacy of fighting for the rights of working people and justice.
Patti Church the wife of UMWA leader Sam Church thanked the crowd for coming out to show support for workers, “remember whose shoulders you stood on to get what you have in your contracts today and fight like hell for the people who brought you here. We can’t go back to the days when kids were shining shoes on the corner because their daddy got hurt in a coalmine.”
Reverend Charles Hawkins reflected on the core message of the day, “We stand under the banner of we are one. If we keep that mantra lifted up, this can be the start of something where benefits are secured for current workers, those who came before us and those who will come after. Stay strong. Stay dedicated. Don’t give up the faith. It is a fight worth fighting.”
CWA 2204’s Marye Rowlett gave a rousing speech, “Every developed country that has a thriving economy has a strong middle class protected by organized labor. Collective bargaining rights are what distinguish us from third world countries. Collective bargaining is the only thing standing in the way between maintaining a middle class and destroying it.”Vodpod videos no longer available.
Worksite Actions and Teach-Ins
USW Local 831 leafleted their fellow employees at the Goodyear plant in Danville- distributing more than 2000 fliers before heading to Roanoke’s We Are One event. During two shifts of handbilling at the Newport News Shipyard, USW Local 8888 was able to reach approximately 7,000 of their fellow workers. BCTGM Local 358 reached out to hundreds of members with worksite fliers at their plant in Richmond.
Fairfax County Federation of Teachers President, Steve Greenburg spoke at one of the many We Are One events in Washington D.C., “After moving to Virginia, as an education professional, I was no longer invited to participate in meaningful dialogue about money, or instruction or curriculum, or the assessment of my children. Every child in this country has the right to a full and equitable education. This is about our children and this is about what is good for society.”Vodpod videos no longer available.
In Arlington, the BNA unit of the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild held a lunchtime rally to stand in solidarity with all workers across America whose rights are being threatened. Their message was that a poor economy cannot be used as an excuse to trample on workers’ rights, and we must stand strong to protect ours.
At George Mason University, students and faculty of the Master of Social Work program showed their solidarity with fellow public servants by wearing their MSW Student Association T-Shirts to class, work or field practicum.
CWA’s Virginia locals participated in workplace mobilizations throughout the day. Locals held creative actions of solidarity ranging from pickets, leafleting, and lunchtime events to walking in together, wearing the same t-shirts and stickers, handing out balloons at worksites and even taking a traveling billboard around Richmond.
On Tuesday, GMU, NVCC, W&M, UVA, Unitarian Universalist Church of Roanoke and Louisa Public Library all participated in Fight Back USA’s national “Teach-In on Debt, Austerity and How People are Fighting Back.” Over 250 campuses nationwide either hosted their own local teach-in or connected with the live webcast moderated by Cornel West and Frances Fox Piven. The webcast featured a panel of social justice experts and activists including AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, Heather McGhee (Demos) and Jeffrey Sachs (Columbia University).
Report by Dan Duncan, President NOVA Labor
More than two dozen vocal supporters from the NAACP, Move On, local religious groups, Democratic Party and retirees joined union members in front of the Loudoun County Government Center Monday evening to thank members of the Board of Supervisors for their support in limiting the size of future “Big Box” stores in that county.
“This has been a three-year process and these officials have stood with us,” declared Tony Perez, director of governmental relations for UFCW 400. “Tonight we are here to say thank you as we expect the board to pass this legislation.”
Speaking to the group prior to the board meeting were Supervisors Stevens Miller (sponsor of the bill) and Andrea McGimsey. NoVA Labor President Daniel Duncan told the rally, “We are one with local businesses and the residents of Leesburg and Loudoun in support of this measure.”
Later in the evening, the board passed by a 5-3-1 vote the legislation which limits the size of future retail stores that can be built in the county. Union members from the CWA, UAW, AFGE, AFSCME, UFCW, AFT and SIU participated.
Report by Andrea Miller, PDA
Activists, Virginia Delegates and Senators, and the NAACP leadership from four local branches gathered with union workers to say in one voice, “We are One”. We agreed that we have to put aside small differences and work together to ensure workers’ rights, healthcare rights and civil rights.
Dr. Rayfield Vines, President of the State NACCP asked the question, “What would Dr. King think about what is going on in the world today?” Forty years ago Dr. King answered that question, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”
Participants at the event included those who marched with Dr. King, others who lived to witness Dr. King’s work and those who know of his legacy only as part of our national history. We must stand together in our quest for equality, justice and civil rights. Things have not gotten better; now they are worse. The question for each of us is, “Have we given the best of ourselves yet? If not, why not and when?”
Richard Hatch, President of the Central Virginia Labor Federation left this message with the crowd, “You see when people come together they have power. They have power to make a difference and to change things. They can claim their right to be treated the same as everyone else and they can speak with a voice that will be heard. That right has taken many, many years to gain and we will not go back!”
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Close to 400 union members and allies filled Dr. Martin Luther King Memorial Bridge in downtown Roanoke on Monday night. The event capped a day in which over 3 dozen actions across the state paid tribute to the legacy of Dr. King and his fight for justice. The boisterous and diverse crowd included union members from the private and public sector: brothers and sisters with AFGE, APWU, CWA and IUE-CWA, Steelworkers from Danville, UAW members from Dublin, Building Trades and a significant contingent of UMWA members who took a bus from the coalfields. Suffice it to say the entire labor movement was represented along with many of our civil rights and community allies.
Gathered around a statue of Dr. King, the group heard a passionate speech and invocation from brother John Hash with IUE-CWA 82162 and a moving speech from Reverend Keen, the State President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference before marching together across the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Bridge and back.
Brother Hash, “We need our rights and we want our fair share. We have to take care of our families. Forty-three years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King gave up his life for people like us, for working people.”
Reverend Keen added, “They’re making people work more and more. The more they work, the more they put on. The more they add on, the more they require of workers and at the same time, the pay has stayed the same. We must come together as one. One nation, one people working for rights, justice and equality.”
Doris Crouse Mays President of the Virginia AFL-CIO ended the night with her remarks, “Scott Walker played the oldest hand in the deck- he played divide and conquer. But it’s clear he’s only united people. His attacks woke a sleeping giant. He woke up a whole lot of people to the fact that we’re all in this together and we need to stand together to save a vanishing middle class.”
As working people face unprecedented attacks, the call we answered on April 4 was to keep Dr. King’s mission alive by continuing his fight for economic justice and equality.Vodpod videos no longer available.
Falls ChurchVodpod videos no longer available.
Close to 250 AFGE and union activists met for a lunchtime rally in Falls Church on Wednesday April 6th. The message was simple: We Are One and We Want to Work. A government shutdown would have impacted nearly 800,000 federal employees. The impact of a shutdown would also have been felt by small businesses and communities across Virginia where a huge number of our AFGE brothers and sisters work and live.
Tom Webb, President of AFGE 3615, “We are all one. It doesn’t do anyone any good on the outside to see us lose our jobs or to have our pay cut.”
AFGE National Vice President Dwight Bowman, “If this was really about the deficit, we’d be dealing with the deficit. This is about their pet projects and their ideology which has nothing to do with the work you perform for America. You have always held this country together.”
First Vice President of Local 3615, Barbara Jackson added, “We will not allow them to make us the scapegoats for all the mistakes that have been made. What about Wall Street? It’s time they pay for their mistakes. We’re not the problem.”