Over the next few days, but primarily on April 4, 2011, there will be more than 600 demonstrations, marches, and protests all across the United States, to, in the words of Michael Moore:
Monday, April 4th: We Are One
Demonstrations in state capitols and everywhere across the U.S. in remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and in defense of workers’ rights.
There will be a demonstration near to where you live or work. Please consult the map below which shows the sites where demonstrations are planned.
The map can be seen at various different scales on a page of Michael Moore’s website, which can be linked to from his main page at MichaelMoore.Com. Click the words Find An Action near the top (just under the heading quoted above) or go to that page directly.
There is a place on that same page for you to enter your Zipcode or State, for a list of places and dates of actions near you.
April 4th is a particularly important date. In 1968, 1,300 sanitation workers in Memphis went on strike for better wages and the right to organize. Mayor Loeb opposed them vigorously. Their union which was fighting with them and for them, was AFSCME (American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Local 1733. This is the same union which is leading the fight in Wisconsin and Ohio, and about 20 other states against the Republican Party’s determined attack to break public employee unions once and for all.
On April 3rd, The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. came to Memphis to support the sanitation workers and delivered his last speech. The next day, while standing on a balcony at the Lorraine Motel, Rev. King was assassinated, ostensibly by a racist habitual criminal named James Earl Ray.
In a sense, Rev. King gave his life in support of public workers. The King family never believed that Ray acted alone, and in 1999, a mock civil rights trial found that Ray had nothing to do with the assassination. If you are interested, here is a link to the complete transcript of this mock trial: Trial Transcript.
Eventually Memphis heard the grievances of its sanitation workers. The strike ended on April 16, 1968, 12 days after Rev. King was assassinated. For a timeline of the strike and its major events, provided by AFSCMA, please see Martin Luther King, the Memphis sanitation strike, and the dignity of labor.
To quote Professor Robert Reich, Secretary of Labor under President Clinton, “And in subsequent years millions of public employees across the nation have benefited from the job protections they’ve earned.
But now the right is going after public employees.
Public servants are convenient scapegoats. Republicans would rather deflect attention from corporate executive pay that continues to rise as corporate profits soar, even as corporations refuse to hire more workers. They don’t want stories about Wall Street bonuses, now higher than before taxpayers bailed out the Street. And they’d like to avoid a spotlight on the billions raked in by hedge-fund and private-equity managers whose income is treated as capital gains and subject to only a 15 percent tax, due to a loophole in the tax laws designed specifically for them.
It’s far more convenient to go after people who are doing the public’s work – sanitation workers, police officers, fire fighters, teachers, social workers, federal employees – to call them “faceless bureaucrats” and portray them as hooligans who are making off with your money and crippling federal and state budgets. The story fits better with the Republican’s Big Lie that our problems are due to a government that’s too big.
Above all, Republicans don’t want to have to justify continued tax cuts for the rich. As quietly as possible, they want to make them permanent.
But the right’s argument is shot-through with bad data, twisted evidence, and unsupported assertions.
It is largely the public sector workers and their unions who are being attacked now. If the Republicans are successful, they will go after private sector workers and their unions next.
There are other groups being attacked as well. We all know about what has happened in Wisconsin as far as taking away the right to collective bargaining from their public sector unions (just those who did not support Scott Walker’s candidacy; the ones that did support Walker are exempt), but funding for Wisconsin education at all levels, kindergarten through university has been slashed. Recalls are in progress against seven Republican State Senators, which, if they are successful, will put the State Senate back under Democratic control. There is also a special election next week for one of the State Supreme Court Justices. The incumbent, a Republican who supported Walker, is likely to be beaten in this election.
Ohio has done essentially the same thing as Wisconsin, except all public employees are deprived of collective bargaining, even those who supported Governor Kasich’s candidacy. However, Ohio law gives the population of the state an out. If they can gather 260,000 valid signatures requesting it during the 90 day period which began the day Governor Kasich signed the bill, the bill would be put on the November ballot, to let all the voters decide.
In Michigan, the state government has raised taxes on pension income, which attacks the livelihood of primarily the elderly, and cut the state’s version of the Earned Income Tax Credit, which attacks the working poor. The money which is saved by this, does not go to reduce Michigan’s budget deficit; it goes to finance tax breaks for corporations. This same law has also given Governor Snyder the authority to declare any political subdivision of Michigan, such as a city, to be in “financial crisis” and to appoint someone to take over that entity as a sort of “financial tsar.” The financial tsar would have the authority to nullify all agreements between the city and its workers, fire city officials, even those elected by the city’s population, and dissolve the city entirely. This tsar can be either an employee of Governor Snyder’s, or someone from the private sector, such as a corporate official.
Florida is doing the same thing, cutting a huge amount from school funding, not applying the savings to close the state’s budget deficit, but giving it to corporations and wealthy land owners. Plus Governor Scott is pushing legislation that would require all state public employees to be tested for drugs once per quarter, including those whose jobs are not involved with public safety or law enforcement. The courts have generally held that all-inclusive drug testing like this is, in the absence of probable cause, unconstitutional.
The most egregious of all is what is happening in Maine. The state has legislation pending that would roll back child labor laws. If passed (which seems likely) teenagers could work as much as 24 hours per week (the original proposal was no limit), at sub-minimum wage. They would be paid $5.25 per hour. Adult minimum wage workers get $7.50 per hour. Maine has a 7% unemployment rate. If this bill passes, the unemployed, and current minimum wage workers will have to compete with children as young as 16. Parents do want their children educated, not put to work. And the children themselves are screwed by a provision of this bill. They are paid the reduced minimum wage for only 179 days. At day 180 they qualify for the full minimum wage. On day 179 or shortly before what they will get is fired, so that a new child laborer can start with his own 179 day term of employment.
And there are many more. At the Federal level, Republicans seek to cut Social Security, among other programs. The FY 2011 budget is nearly worked out, but soon they will start working on FY 2012, and the attacks will renew. We have to stand up now, at the outset, because an attack on any part of the middle class or the workers, is an attack against all of us.