Ed Childs, chief steward of UNITE HERE Local 26 in Boston, has been in Charlotte since Aug. 1, hitting the streets, meeting and talking with poor and working people throughout the city as part of organizing efforts for the March on Wall Street South on Sept. 2.
On Aug. 6, Childs participated in an informational picket of Charlotte city workers, members of United Electrical Workers, at City Hall.
Workers World talked to Childs on the picket line and asked why, as a trade union activist from a Northern state, he believes it is important to organize the South. Following is an edited version of his response.
“In this country the most repressed workers are right here — the city and state workers in North Carolina. They have the most racist, anti-labor laws here, worse than any other place in the U.S. We have to all come together and defeat our enemies who have hit our workers the hardest here. These are laws stemming from slavery, from post-Reconstruction.
“The workers here are sticking it out in the toughest situation in the country. We’re being hit hard all over, but the hardest place we’re being hit is here in the South. Unless every worker is organized, nobody is going to achieve anything. Labor has to come here with the Black workers, the immigrant workers, and the poor white workers who are in the worst conditions. If we don’t organize this place, we’re not going to do anything, so this is why we’re here.
“The Southern Workers Assembly [see information in italics below] has the biggest potential to drive labor forward, to drive Civil Rights forward, to drive immigrant rights forward, to drive community rights forward, to drive workers in general forward. It’s the Southern Workers Assembly that the workers and their communities here are taking on themselves and organizing.”
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“The workers here understand and that’s why they’re building the Southern Workers Assembly. The Democrats and the Republicans are both here politicking in Charlotte because of Wall Street South. Charlotte has the second-highest concentration of finance capital in the U.S. outside of Wall Street. That’s why they’re here.
“The Democrats and the Republicans are not here to spread any wealth, rights, justice, democracy or anything like that to workers here in North Carolina and Charlotte, in particular. They’re here to welcome finance capital to exploit the South, to exploit the workers, to drive unions underground, which they basically have done here.
“But workers here are saying, we’re gonna use this Democratic National Convention and we’re gonna use it to build our movement because the Democrats are part of the problem, not part of the solution, and they’re going to try and force right-to-work laws all over the country. That looks like a Republican thing, but it’s a bipartisan thing.
“The Democrats have instituted and enforced the right-to-work laws in North Carolina for decades, and they intend to keep them here — their program is not to undo the right-to-work laws. The only ones who will undo these laws are the workers and their allies here, and they’re going to use the DNC — they’re going to use any tool possible — to undo these laws and help workers throughout this country.”
Charlotte city workers’ informational pickets are taking place every Monday beginning at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall, 600 E. 4th St. For more information, call 919-539-2051.
The Southern Workers Assembly is Sept. 3 from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Wedgewood Baptist Church, 4800 Wedgewood Dr., Charlotte. For more information go to southernworker.org or contact Saladin Muhammad of the Southern International Worker Justice Campaign at [email protected].