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The Voice of the Black Community

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NAACP and AFL-CIO connects MLK, unions
N.C. marches highlight collective bargaining rights
 
Published Thursday, March 31, 2011 9:44 pm
by Sommer Brokaw

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg NAACP and the AFL-CIO will also honor Martin Luther King and as stand up for public service workers’ rights at a rally and picket line on April 4.

The “We Are One” rally will begin at noon at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center.

On April 4, 1968, King was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn., where he had gone to stand with sanitation workers who were demanding the right to bargain collectively for improved working conditions. The workers were trying to form a union with the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees.

Those workers’ message was: “I am a man. I have rights. I am human, and I am equal to you in many ways. I may not have political power, but I’m human and have rights and ought to be respected,” according to James Andrews, president of the North Carolina American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations.

There will be 15 minutes of silence at the April 4 rally outside of the state capitol in Raleigh to depict the message sent by those 1,300 sanitation workers. “We will also be sending the message that Dr. King lost his life by being in Memphis standing with them,” Andrews said.

“Just a few months ago Americans came together as one nation working together at 10-2-10 to show unity and solidarity,” said Rev. Kojo Nantambu, president of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg NAACP, referring to the tens of thousands of people who marched on Washington for living wages, quality schools, and public employees’ bargaining rights. 

“Since that time right-wing extremists have escalated their attacks against the family and the worker. This time the attacks have been launched on our policemen, firefighters, nurses, caregivers, teachers, students and administrators, and in some cities against our subway workers, staff, and bus operators,” he added. “This attack on hard-working American families cannot be allowed to prevail. This is a moral struggle in our country about who we are as a nation and what we believe in.”

The April 4 rallies are part of a national movement started in part as a response to Republican efforts to strip away collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin, the once blue state that has been supportive of labor union rights. Union activists have rallied across the nation to fight the curtailing of Wisconsin’s collective bargaining rights, but North Carolina is one of two states where collective bargaining for public sector employees is outlawed.

“We’re seeing the amount of folks around the country and other states standing in solidarity with that group of workers whose rights are being taken away in Wisconsin, but also where Wisconsin workers are fighting in fact to hold onto collective bargaining rights we’re highlighting the fact that in 1959 our rights were taken away from us,” Andrews said.

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