Workers, students pour out in solidarity — Protests across U.S. support union struggle in Wisconsin

A mighty giant is beginning to awaken. The fighting workers and youth of Wisconsin, who are battling a right-wing offensive seeking to decimate collective bargaining in that state, have inspired and put in motion the multinational working class throughout the entire United States. Workers in unions, in non-union jobs and unemployed, along with students, youth and activists of all ages, have been galvanized by the electrifying struggle unfolding in Wisconsin where workers have taken a stand and said “Enough!”

Solidarity demonstrations involving many tens of thousands of people were held in all 50 states, in cities and towns large and small, on Feb. 26 and other dates since the Feb. 14 confrontation began in Madison. Here is a sampling of just a few of the demonstrations that occurred Feb. 26 and several days prior.

Thousands rallied at the Los Angeles City Hall. A delegation of Los Angeles union workers had just returned from Wisconsin and reported on staying inside the Capitol building in Madison. Thousands of union members, students and progressive community activists rallied in Sacramento, Calif., around the Bay Area and in San Diego.

More than 3,000 union members came out to a candlelight vigil on the steps of the Capitol building in Sacramento. Under the banner of “We Are One,” speaker after speaker expressed solidarity with their union sisters and brothers in Wisconsin. David Sanchez, president of the California Teachers Association, drew loud applause when he said, “Working people did not create this economic crisis — Wall Street did!”

A small rally by the California Tea Party also on the steps of the Capitol in Sacramento was dwarfed by the angry workers, who easily drowned them out with their rally for workers’ rights.

Hundreds of people rallied in downtown San Francisco. Even with a serious rainstorm threatening, a large assemblage of local unionists and supporters massed at the San Diego County Administration Building to proclaim their solidarity with their sister and brother workers on the front lines in Wisconsin.

Several thousand workers demonstrated in Chicago. At least 10 union buses also went from Chicago to Madison to join in the protests there. In New York City thousands demonstrated, including many members from Service Employees Union Local 1199 health care workers and janitors, Communication Workers union, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees District Council 37 workers, and teachers’ and other educational workers’ unions, among others.

In Buffalo, N.Y., the largest grassroots, pro-union, community-organized rally in decades brought hundreds to the steps of City Hall. A militant crowd of rank-and-file union members, students, community activists and politician allies sent greetings of support to Wisconsin.

‘ Make Wall Street pay!’

Hundreds of union members, their families and community supporters filled the plaza, steps and sidewalk in front of the Georgia state Capitol in Atlanta on Feb. 23. “Stop the War on Workers” signs were held high as the crowd chanted continuously, accompanied by blaring honks of solidarity from passing cars. Called by the Atlanta North Georgia Labor Council to show support for Wisconsin public sector workers, the rally was also a message to the anti-labor members of the Georgia Assembly who are scapegoating teachers, public services and immigrant workers for the budget crisis in the state.

Among the many unions participating were AFSCME, Teamsters, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Machinists union, United Auto Workers, SEIU, building trades and others. Students from public colleges and universities, members of Jobs with Justice, Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition and other social justice groups were there. One of the International Action Center banners — “Workers and students didn’t cause the economic crisis! We say: Make Wall Street pay” — summed up the solution proposed by many of the most militant speakers.

Students at the University of Georgia also held a Wisconsin support rally at the arches leading to the campus. There has been an active living-wage campaign there for a number of years, struggling to win higher wages and better working conditions for campus workers. Another rally was held at the Georgia Capitol on Feb. 26.

More than 1,000 union activists and supporters picketed the annual conference of the National Governors Association in downtown Washington, D.C., on Feb. 27. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was originally scheduled to chair a panel discussion at the conference but cancelled at the last minute. Chanting “Kill the bill!” and “What’s disgusting? Union busting!” the demonstrators hoped to dissuade all the governors from trying to destroy collective bargaining rights in their states.

On Feb. 22 and again on Feb. 26, thousands of unionists and community activists jammed the front of the Massachusetts Capitol in Boston to show their militant solidarity with the workers and students in Wisconsin and to defend union rights. Large numbers were there from the Massachusetts Teachers Association and the Boston Teachers Union, as well as students, construction workers, AFSCME and SEIU locals, and other unionists and supporters. The Bail Out the People Movement’s “Kill the Bill or Shut It Down” flyer was very well received by demonstrators, as were Workers World newspapers.

Thousands demonstrated at the Capitol in Lansing, Mich., on Feb. 23 in defense of union rights and against attacks by Gov. Rick Snyder as he attempts to balance the state budget on the backs of the workers, students and unemployed. Union firefighters from the downriver-Detroit suburb of Allen Park were there. The Allen Park City Council voted recently to eliminate the entire fire department, which makes more than 2,500 runs per year. Thousands more from around Michigan came out in Lansing on Feb. 26 to support the Wisconsin workers in their fight to keep collective bargaining.

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