Tuesday, April 5, 2011

2011-04-05 "We Are One rally on I-80 bridge in Vallejo protests the attack on collective bargaining rights in Ohio, Wisconsin" by Jessica A. York from "Vallejo Times Herald"
An estimated 1,000 people "rocked" the Alfred Zampa Bridge on Monday afternoon to support labor rights on a national day of solidarity.
The union-organized "We Are One" event was held in support of government workers in states such as Wisconsin and Ohio, where ongoing efforts to limit unions' collective bargaining rights have received national attention.
The event, timed with others around the country Monday, was also aligned with the 43rd anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination in Memphis, Tenn., where he was supporting sanitation workers' efforts to unionize.
"The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his life ... standing up for the rights of people. Advocating for the rights of people. And that's what we're doing here today," the Rev. David Isom of Fairfield told those gathered on the bridge, urging them to move the bridge with their applause.
After rallies on either side of the westbound span, participants from the respective gatherings marched to the center of the bridge on its pedestrian corridor in a show of solidarity.
Isom, also a Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District board member, spoke to a large chanting and sign-waving throng that included regional labor groups from the North Bay, Contra Costa, Solano and Napa counties.
Solano County Guardian Angels also turned out for the event, prepared for those who might try to disrupt the occasion, said chapter leader Omar Martinez. No problems occurred, he added.
Jon Riley, executive director of the Napa/Solano Labor Council, said workers in Wisconsin and California are "totally under attack right now."
"But we're also here to honor the life and the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, who set the groundwork for marches such as these, where we enjoy getting together in a nonviolent way, getting our message across," Riley said.
Contra Costa County IBEW 302 electrician and Vallejo resident Crystal Lavering said she sees a "paradoxical" anti-union movement occurring, one that minimizes the middle class and worsens the economy.
"People take (unions) for granted," Lavering said. "'What do we need a union for?' "
Answering her own rhetorical question, Lavering said unions have earned workers eight-
hour days, equal pay for men and women and child-protecting labor laws.
Vallejo resident Ruth Smith waited on the bridge for the march to come to her Monday morning. She said she has never belonged to a union, but she supported the marchers' rights. She decried Wisconsin's political situation as a "class war" and called that state's governor a "nutball."
Lisa Maldonado, executive director of the North Bay Labor Council AFL-CIO, said a bill seeking to eliminate collective bargaining rights in union-friendly California has been submitted to the Legislature, though she doubts the likelihood of its success.
"The thing in Wisconsin actually energized us all," Maldonado said. "It motivated all of us, and I think we're seeing a real rebirth of labor right now. The labor movement is just growing by leaps and bounds."
In Oakland, meanwhile, members of more than two dozen local unions turned out to show support for the Wisconsin unions embroiled in a huge public fight with Republican leaders, including Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who last month signed a bill strongly reducing bargaining rights for the vast majority of that state's public employees.
Walker has said the move is crucial to addressing the state's crippling budget deficit; opponents call that a smoke screen and say the effort is really about union busting.
Oakland leaders were also among the speakers, including Mayor Jean Quan and Councilwoman Jane Brunner (North Oakland).
"We learned from Martin Luther King's death that a bullet doesn't stop the movement," Quan said. "We also know that in a city like ours, a job can stop a bullet."
The crowd cheered, though Quan's reception frosted a bit when she acknowledged the coming need for city layoffs, as Oakland is facing devastating budget shortfalls in the coming fiscal year. Quan vowed to work together with the unions to bargain fairly.
Brunner said the Republican actions in Wisconsin "are attacks on working families, and on the Democratic Party. This is a serious budget time, but the only solutions coming out of Republicans is taking away from the poorest people in the country and from the working middle class.
"We know we have to be part of the solution, and workers in the city of Oakland have stepped up," Brunner said. "They have given back, in last two years, 10 percent."

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