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Rally for worker rights
Activists push for collective bargaining
 
Published Monday, April 4, 2011 9:14 pm
by Sommer Brokaw

Several people crowded together in a circle on a windy day outside of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center at noon to honor Martin Luther King on the anniversary of his death and to rally for “workers’ rights, equal rights and human rights.”

On April 4, 1968, King was assassinated after going to Tennessee to support Memphis sanitation workers’ strike for better working conditions and the right to form a union with the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees.

“I’m very happy to stand here today remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, and not only remembering that, but remembering his sacrifices. Also, we’re standing here in solidarity. You know what it’s all about. It’s about ‘workers rights, equal rights and human rights.’ We can never ever let that go,” said Debra Geter, representing the Southern Piedmont Central Labor Council, a sponsor of the rally. “We must always cherish what is ours.”

Other sponsors included the American Federation of Labor - Congress of Industrial Organizations, and Charlotte-Mecklenburg NAACP. Groups advocating for worker rights, health care, quality public education, and social justice were also represented.

The Charlotte rally, called We Are One, is the first of its type held in cities across the nation. It started in response to Republican efforts to strip away collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin, the once blue state that has been supportive of labor union rights.

“We’re seeing record-breaking amounts of folks around the country standing in solidarity. Just as we are doing today, shoulder to shoulder, standing up straight and looking straight in the eyes of those who want to attack our families and our way of living,” said Isaac Gobern, AFL-CIO’s field representative. “These groups of workers whose rights are being taken away, we’re fighting back. That’s exactly what we’re doing. Workers are fighting to hold onto collective bargaining rights - fighting hard - today in Greensboro, Asheville, Wilmington and right here in Charlotte.”

Union activists have rallied across the nation to fight the curtailing of Wisconsin’s collective bargaining rights. North Carolina is one of two states in the nation where collective bargaining for public sector employees is outlawed. “We’re highlighting the fact that in 1959 our rights were taken away from us here in North Carolina, one of only two states that it’s illegal,” Gobern said.

He added: “Dr. King told us the arc of history bends towards justice …and we’re going to be right here to see it through. We’re going to be right here in Mecklenburg County, in Charlotte to see that the arc of justice does bend towards justice and working families. We are one people, and we have rights, and we will not be intimidated.”

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