WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com) – Anger at what many denounce as attacks on workers’ rights have continued to reach boiling points inside the United States.
That anger transformed part of the District of Columbia’s downtown March 16 into a small replica of Madison, Wisc., as hundreds of protesters took over the atrium of the Homer Building as lobbyists were holding a fundraiser for Wisconsin Republican leaders.
“This is what democracy looks like!” chanted demonstrators. They broke through security lines, quickly filled up the area, rushed up a staircase and unfurled a large banner reading, “Respect workers rights!”
“This reminds me of being home, seeing you all here; it’s beautiful to see so much support,” said a protestor from Madison. “They think they can come into our state and divide us–telling us that public workers are the enemy, but we know that we are all together. An injury to one is an injury to all!”
Protestors inside the building blew whistles and chanted while hundreds more, who couldn’t get in, did the same.
Thousands of Americans have taken to the streets in Michigan, Florida, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Ohio, D.C., Maryland and Indiana to protest budget cuts and attempts by Republican governors to limit the power of unions.
This protest was sponsored by the AFL-CIO labor union and D.C. Metro Council President Jos Williams congratulated protestors for “liberating this building from the forces of greed and tyranny.”
The workers are angry over Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Republican attempts to strip teachers, nurses, snowplow drivers and other public workers of their collective bargaining rights and make wage and benefit concessions Some Wisconsin GOP members of the state Senate came to town along with state Assembly colleagues to raise money from out of state corporate lobbyists.
“Gov. Walker’s approach is part of a larger national Republican effort to curtail the power of unions. In Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee, and other states, legislatures are attempting to rewrite laws this that gave public employees the right to bargain collectively,” explained Howard University political science professor Dr. Wilmer Leon.
“This is also part of the conservative ‘starve the beast’ fiscal political strategy. By creating or increasing existing budget deficits via tax cuts they create a narrative supporting future reductions in the size of government.”
Democratic state Senators who left town to avoid a vote are investigating whether the vote taken in their absence is even legal. A judge questioned the legitimacy of the vote in a March 18 legal decision. He said lawmakers had to reconsider the measure.
Wisconsin prosecutor Ismael Ozanne, a Democrat, filed a lawsuit challenging the recently passed law and accused Republicans of violating the state’s open meeting laws in pushing the bill through the state legislature.
Mr. Ozanne was the second Wisconsin public official to file a legal challenge over the anti-union legislation.
His suit asked a judge to void the law and issue an emergency order blocking the secretary of state from publishing the law, which would prevent it from taking effect. Mr. Ozanne also wants each Republican leader fined $300.
“It is important to understand the role that unions have played in the American workforce; the making of the middle-class, and the African American middle class. There are many benefits that Americans now take for granted that resulted from collective bargaining such as the end of child labor, the 8 hour work day and paid overtime, compensation for workers injured on the job, unemployment and health insurance, and the minimum wage; just to name a few. All of these benefits have come at a financial cost to impacting the bottom line,” said Dr. Leon.
“These union issues will have a disproportionate impact on African Americans. A recent labor study conducted by University of California-Berkley, found one in five African-American workers are employed in public sector jobs, versus one in six White workers. African Americans are 30 percent more likely to hold such jobs than Whites.”
He added, “For Black men, the public sector–everything from police officers and firefighters to sanitation workers and government clerks–is the largest employer, providing 18 percent of jobs. For Black women, it’s the No. 2 employer, accounting for 23.3 percent of jobs. Also, public sector unionized employees are more likely to support Democratic candidates.”
Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan warned during his Saviours’ Day address Feb. 27 that political unrest seen in the Middle East is coming to the U.S. Minister Farrakhan warned President Barack Obama to remember the demands placed on Libya to respect human rights and the calls for non-violent reactions to protests as Americans grow more angry, vocal and impatient.