Leaders from the women’s and civil-rights movements, labor unions, environmental-justice groups, the religious community and others announced plans to mobilize in Foley Square on Feb. 24 during a massive, nationwide day of action.
The Working People’s Day of Action, convened by the workers’-rights organization Jobs With Justice, will include events in dozens of cities across the country, according to the New York State AFL-CIO. Tens of thousands of people are expected to join the call for an end to policies they believe rig the economy and political system against working people, the organization said.
'68 Strike Vet to Speak
In New York, the Working People’s Day of Action will take place at Foley Square from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Speakers will include Baxter Leach, a longtime AFSCME member and sanitation worker who participated in the 1968 sanitation strike in Memphis, Tenn.
The strikers, all black men, protested the horrible working conditions, abuse, racism and discrimination they were forced to submit to in exchange for their 65-cent-an-hour jobs. Martin Luther King Jr. was visiting Memphis to encourage them when he was assassinated April 4 of that year.
The day of action is intended to advance the unfinished work of Dr. King and spark political momentum throughout New York State and across the country heading into the 2018 elections and beyond, the state AFL-CIO said.
Precedes Key Court Case
The event will take place just two days before the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, which challenges the rights of public-employee unions to collect fees from non-members to cover negotiating and grievance costs.
“It’s clear that Janus v. AFSCME is a continuation of attacks meant to diminish workers’ ability to have a collective voice on the job,” said Vincent Alvarez, president of the AFL-CIO New York City Central Labor Council. “The labor movement in New York City and beyond remains steadfast in our belief that having a voice at work continues to be the best way to secure good wages and benefits for workers and their families.”
Mario Cilento, president of the New York State AFL-CIO, said, “The freedom of working men and women to have a voice in the workplace is under an unprecedented attack by conservative ideologues in Washington who are backed by powerful corporations. Here in New York, I guarantee you we will not allow these assaults to silence the voice of working people.”
Gregory Floyd, president of Teamsters Local 237, said, “Workers’ rights and civil rights are one. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. knew this and ultimately died in the fight for equality and dignity in the workplace. As we remember that horrifying day 50 years ago when he was assassinated, what adds to our revulsion is to know that the fight must continue--it has not been won yet. The Janus case is a grave reminder of this.”
'The Struggle Continues'
DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido said, “In 1968, poor, striking sanitation workers in Memphis, Tenn., paved the way to empowerment in a struggle that Rev. Martin Luther King died for. Fifty years later, the struggle continues as deep-pocketed corporate titans and the elected officials who do their bidding try to set back the clock on labor rights and civil rights. They want to silence the collective voice of public-sector unions, which push for policies that benefit all workers, such as increasing the minimum wage, affordable health care and better public schools. That’s what’s at stake in the Janus v. AFSCME case.”
"Unions, and the tens of thousands of working families they represent, are squarely in the sights of the corporate elites and billionaire CEOs who are fixated on defunding, weakening and ultimately crushing organized labor,” said Fred Kowal, president of United University Professions. “As workers and union members, we must speak out in a single, strong voice to protect our families, our jobs, our futures and our union.”
Jake Lemonda, president of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association, said, “The solidarity demonstrated on Feb. 24 will show that labor is strong here in the city, state and across our country. Labor will not be silenced. Our message will be clear that ‘Janus is not about free speech,’ but rather it is a direct attack on working men and woman and their ability to organize as one and collectively bargain in unity.”