The people of Wisconsin ignited a fire inside working people and students across the U.S. and that fire has spread to Los Angeles. On Saturday, March 26, more than 20,000 people took to the streets of downtown L.A. to demand good jobs and stand with workers in Wisconsin and other states who are fighting to protect collective bargaining. This was the largest action led by L.A. labor in recent history.
Carrying signs and banners to “Stop the War on Workers” and “Stand with Wisconsin Workers,” tens of thousands of construction workers, hotel workers, fire fighters, city, county, and state workers, truck drivers, grocery workers, telecommunications workers, nurses, homecare workers, farm workers, actors, musicians, camera operators, teachers, parents, students, faith leaders, immigrants, community members, and more filled the streets for more than a half mile.
The march began at the L.A. Convention Center and ended at Pershing Square. Marchers stopped at several corporate employers: Luxe Hotel, T-Mobile, and Ralph’s Supermarket, calling for fair contracts now and the right to join a union. Marchers also stopped at Chase Bank demanding a fair economy for working families, not just corporate America.
The leader of the L.A. labor movement, Maria Elena Durazo, led the march from the Convention Center to the rally at Pershing Square.
In Los Angeles, we’re not going to sit back and watch Republican governors and their right-wing corporate backers roll back the freedoms of working people in this country. We support Wisconsin and any other state where those freedoms are under attack.
Six international union leaders marched with their members and rallied the massive crowds: International Brotherhood of Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa, SEIU President Mary Kay Henry, UFCW President Joe Hansen, UNITE HERE President John Wilhelm, UFW President Arturo Rodriguez, and LIUNA Vice President Rocco Davis.
President of the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin, Mahlon Mitchell, traveled to L.A. in solidarity and helped lead the march with the L.A. County and City fire fighters. At the rally in Pershing Square, President Mitchell gave a rousing speech connecting Wisconsin to LA.
This is about an attack on me. This is about an attack on you. This is an emergency we have in Wisconsin and across the U.S. This is about an attack on the middle class. We need to reclaim our moral outrage … because we are in the battle of a lifetime.
Tom Morello, the Nightwatchman, elevated thousands by performing his “Union Song.” The Grammy award-winning Latin, rock, hip hop band Ozomotli brought the house down and the rally to a close. Check out TV coverage from the march here.
In Los Angeles, this is just the beginning. On April 4, L.A. will stand with Wisconsin and labor across the U.S. on the National Day of Action for workers’ rights and collective bargaining. L.A. working families will be joined by a Wisconsin State Senator to be announced.
The L.A. solidarity event at the First AME Church of Los Angeles begins with a Wisconsin Bratwurst Barbeque provided by IBEW Local 11. The program follows with Pastor John Hunter, William Lucy, retired Secretary-Treasurer of AFSCME and union leader in the 1968 Memphis sanitation strike, and Reverend James Lawson, Civil Rights leader and community organizer in the 1968 Memphis sanitation strike.
WHEN: Monday, April 4, 2011 from 5:00-7:00 PM
WHERE: First AME Church of Los Angeles, 2270 S. Harvard Blvd., L.A. 90018
For more information, contact Priscilla Cheng at (213) 381-5611 ext. 133.
By Caroline O’Connor
LA County Federation of Labor
Republished with permission.
Photos by Mike Chickey