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Workers’ group backs upcoming Millions More March

Published Jul 12, 2005 9:23 PM

Clarence Thomas

Following are excerpts from a recent call by the Million Worker March Movement in support of the Millions More Movement, upcoming in the fall. The MWMM emanated from International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 10, which has a long history and legacy of providing leadership within the union movement in the fight for economic and social justice. The Black-led MWMM organized the historic Oct. 17, 2004, protest held at the Lincoln Memorial, which called for an independent workers' movement in the United States.

The principal leaders of the MWMM are ILWU Local 10 President Trent Willis, Local 10 Executive Board member Clarence Thomas, Teamsters National Black Caucus Chair Chris Silvera, AFSMCE District Council 1707 former President Brenda Stokely, Transport Workers Local 100 President Roger Toussaint, Saladin Muhammad of Black Workers for Justice, and anti-war leader Larry Holmes. The excerpts follow.

On May 14 and 15, the Million Worker March Movement held a National Report-back and Networking Meeting in Detroit, which brought together MWMM organizers and leaders representing various regions of the country.

The consensus of those present expressed strong support for the MWMM's endorsement of the 10-year commemoration of the Million Man March, which is being organized as the Millions More Movement. The MMM will seek to mobilize millions to Washington, D.C., on Oct. 14 through Oct. 16.

Ninety-five percent of all African Americans are workers; 30 percent of African American workers are union members and make up an important segment of the labor movement; nearly 50 percent are women; and 55 percent live in the U.S. South, where right-to-work laws are part of the Southern states' structure as a low-wage region with the lowest percentage of unionized workers.

We see the MMM as a very important vehicle for convening a national Black united front to help reunite the fragmented forces of the African American liberation movement and to help facilitate the unity of Black workers.

In 1995 the Million Man March mobilized close to 2 million people to Washington, D.C. Despite some warranted criticisms it helped to propel successive grassroots mobilizations over a 10-year period, as represented by the Million Women's, Million Family, Million Youth, Million Reparations and Million Worker marches, the latter helping to spawn an independent workers' movement.

The majority at the 1995 march were Black workers, organized and unorganized. Many came despite opposition and threats of retaliation from their employers. Most, including those in unions, used their personal resources to attend because most of trade unions did not support the march. This failure to carry out and support struggles against racism inside and outside of the trade unions is a major weakness of the U.S. trade union movement and a key reason for its current crisis of direction. Black workers must continue to struggle to change this reality.

The 1995 march represented an historic event as it was the largest single national mobilization of African Americans in U.S. history. However, the organized identity and demands of Black workers, which are at the core of the issues facing all workers, were not strongly represented.

In the words of Minister [Louis] Farrakhan, the main convener of the Millions More Movement, "Millions More," he explained, "means that we are reaching for the millions who carry the rich on their backs." We agree totally with this formulation. We believe this points out the importance of Black workers mobilizing the broadest possible base of the U.S. and international working class regardless of race or gender to this historic mobilization. The MWMM has demonstrated an ability to advance demands that build international worker solidarity.

The MMM organizers reached out to MWMM to participate in this historical mobilization. Knowing that the MWMM involves workers of all races, nationalities, genders, religions and sexual orientations indicates the breadth of the mobilization that is being called for by the MMM.

The MMM will be a major mobilization linking the U.S. war at home with the U.S.-led and -supported wars and occupations abroad. This will send an important message of hope around the world that there is a powerful movement on the horizon.

Now, 10 years later, the present attacks on the workers have made the stakes much higher than 1995. No one can afford to sit this one out! Therefore, we see the main task of the MWMM as organizing and mobilizing the conscious and enthusiastic participation of workers in our own name. Our demands must include:

* National health care
* Bring the troops home now
* Preserve and protect Social Security
* Family-supporting living wage
* Repeal U.S. Patriot Acts
* Protect worker pensions
* Stop dismantling of public education
* Bring jobs back to America
* End to privatization
* Affordable housing
* Protection of the environment
* Progressive taxation
* Amnesty for all undocumented workers

Black workers must build a Black- and People of Color-led broad workers' coalition to mobilize for the MMM. We must bring together organizations like Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, A. Philip Randolph Institute, National African American Caucus-SEIU, Teamsters National Black Caucus, Black Workers For Justice, Black Telephone Workers For Justice, Harlem Fight Back, Global Women's Strike Committee, Farm Labor Organizing Committee, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance of AFL-CIO, Pride At Work and immigrant rights organizations, and many others.

We call on all of the unions, worker groups, anti-war and social-justice activist organizations who are affiliates with or supporters of the MWMM to sign on and help build for the MMM!

Mobilizing in Our Own Name!