Activists in South support public workers
Published Mar 3, 2011 8:36 PM
Raleigh, N.C., Feb. 21.
WW photo: Dante Strobino
The Labor, Faith and Civil Rights Coalition in Defense of the Public Sector
rallied in Raleigh, N.C., on Feb. 21. Workers and community members showed
support for Wisconsin workers, who are fighting to maintain collective
rights, and demanded these rights in North Carolina, where they were
banned in 1959.
The momentum built in Wisconsin is strengthening the movement to repeal North
Protesters marched to the General Assembly, led by the Rev. Dr. William Barber
II, president of N.C. NAACP; Angaza Laughinghouse, president of UE Local 150;
Monserrat Alvarez, of Raleigh Fight Imperialism, Stand Together; N.C. AFL-CIO
President James Andrews; and the Rev. Nelson Johnson, director of Beloved
Community Center in Greensboro.
They delivered copies of the coalition’s statement of principles and the
U.N. International Labor Organization’s ruling — which called on
the state to resume collective — to Thom Tillis, speaker of
the House, and Phil Berger, president pro tempore of the Senate. Both Tea Party
members, they aim to slash thousands of state jobs and further erode vital
services in their 2011-12 budget proposals.
UE Electrical Workers Local 150, the N.C. Public Service Workers Union, the
N.C. NAACP State Conference and the International Worker Justice Campaign
initiated this coalition. They want the ban lifted and call for the state to
set up a framework to grant public sector workers collective rights.
This is crucial to a broad program to defend public sector jobs and services,
now under attack by federal, state and local governments.
Their founding statement says: “The public sector is the basic safety net
for providing working-class and poor people the basic essential human needs. It
must be protected. ... In order to wage a powerful struggle in defense of
public services, which is being exemplified by the protests in Wisconsin, there
must be a struggle to defend the workers that provide these services. The right
to collective , for workers to have input in shaping the decisions
about working conditions, must be a basic right and major demand of broad
coalitions that must be formed in defense of the public sector.”
These issues are also crucial in Virginia and other Southern states, where
public sector workers are denied collective rights.
The document cites the ILO ruling, which found that the federal government and
North Carolina violated international laws by denying collective
rights to public sector workers. The decision responded to a N.C. Public
Service Workers Union-UE Local 150 complaint.
Coalition members joined the Feb. 12, statewide, Historic Thousands on Jones
Street demonstration to defend public sector workers and services. HKonJ has
organized since 2007 to bring thousands of African-American community members,
workers and allies to a People’s Assembly march to the North Carolina
Legislature in Raleigh to demand a 14-point people’s program.
The new coalition plans a “People’s Budget” campaign of
people’s assemblies to be held in N.C. cities, giving workers and
communities a genuine voice in bringing forward their demands for government
budgets to meet workers’ and oppressed peoples’ needs.
That corporations have been able to leave Northern and Western unionized areas
to set up “run-away shops” in the low-wage South reflects a
historical weakness of the labor movement in not organizing there. This, as
well as the legacy of Jim Crow racism, has contributed to the creation of
reactionary organizations, such as the Tea Party, which aim to destroy public
and private sector unions in states where unions have been stronger.
Workers throughout the country must unite with community and workers’
organizations and other sectors to unleash their collective power. During the
capitalist crisis, this unity is key to organizing peoples’ power.
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