AFSCME President Lee Saunders and DC 1707 Executive Director Kim Medina
Thousands Pour into Foley Square for
Working People’s Day of Action
Executive Director Wows Crowd
It was billed as the Working People’s Day of Action. Thousands of union members and their families squeezed into the downtown Manhattan Foley Square triangle and roared and chanted along with speakers who had an unusually grim message but each one offered hope and resistance.
Union elected leaders from across the city were ready to fight to save unions. A lot is at stake. Workers were jailed and died fighting for the 40-hour day and minimum wage a century ago. Taking away workers’ rights today requires that workers demonstrate commitment and strong organizing.
It is not play time. Rights can be taken away in real time. The message was loud and clear – workers’ rights will be lost if we do not act immediate speed and determination.
Union Rights on the Chopping Block
Also, on the chopping block are the rights of public employees. Backed by big money and the far-right is the Janus vs. AFSCME case before the U.S. Supreme Court. If the case is decided against public unions, public unions will not have the right to collect dues but must represent workers in all situations.
Public unions like AFSCME and the American Federation of Teachers and others have been the political bulwark against the right across the country. The court briefs were delivered February 26. The decision may come down in May or June.
Unions are anticipating the worst. Trump’s April 2017 appointee, a right-wing jurist named Neil Gorsuch, now give the right-wing of the bench a 5-4 majority. This decision could have a decisive effect on the labor movement for decades.
The 5,000-people listening in Foley Square and in 24 cities across the country were understanding the same threat.
DC 1707 Executive Director Kim Medina gave a passionate speech. “In economic security there is freedom. The American Dream was real. It is not so real now. People are working harder for less and less,” she said.
“That’s why today is so powerful. We are coming together today to raise our voices, exert our dignity and demand our freedom.”
Political allies of the unions spoke as well about the devastation caused by the Trump Administration and the Republican Congress Senate which knows no boundaries to unrepentantly slash gains for working families. NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo to Mayor Bill de Blasio to NYS Comptroller Tom DiNapoli to the NYS Attorney General Eric Schneiderman all joined the crowd and pledged their support for unions and working families.
AFSCME International President Lee Saunders gave a powerful speech. He understood what this decision could reap on organized workers and the unorganized.
“The politicians who want to slash public services and crush unions are busting budgets with extravagant tax breaks,” he said as he has countless times in the past to wake up those who do not understand.
But the real treat was watching Baxter Leach carefully climb the steps to the stage. The Mississippi native was a member of AFSCME Local 1733 who went on strike for 75 days to obtain a contract for Memphis public sanitation workers. Their strike was won 14 days after the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. King was in Memphis to support this strike and died on the balcony of the Lorraine Hotel. He died for sanitation workers who were making $1.65, not an hour but for the day. Slave wages.
This what Trump and his allies want for working families today. Permanent corporate tax cuts and pennies for workers.
The Janus case is the tip of the iceberg. If workers do not organize and fight, much more will be taken.