By Kevin Bogardus - 04/04/11 03:23 PM EDT
Labor, civil rights and environmental groups will advocate for collective bargaining rights Monday on the anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
Under the banner of “We Are One,” the coalition is seeking to build off the labor movement's momentum from its standoff in Wisconsin with GOP Gov. Scott Walker. Organizers are citing the slain civil-rights leader’s protests for collective bargaining rights for sanitation workers in Memphis, Tenn, as inspiration to support workers rights.
More than 1,000 marches, vigils, teach-ins, rallies and other events are planned for Monday and throughout this week in all 50 states. The coalition is responding to attempts to restrict collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin, Ohio and other states.
Saying King recognized labor rights as “a basic human right, a fundamental civil right,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) accused governors like Walker and Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) of using the guise of balancing the budget to cut back on union rights.
“Governors are seeking to settle old scores,” Brown told reporters, saying that curbing workers’ rights is not about balancing the budget.
“We know workers in all our states are willing to share in the sacrifice to help balance the budget,” Brown said.
Walker and Kasich have shepherded through legislation that would curtail collective bargaining rights in their states. But those victories have not come without costs: Both governors have been polling badly with voters after their heated battles with public-sector unions.
In Ohio and Wisconsin, local affiliates of the AFL-CIO are holding more than two dozen prayer services, marches and demonstrations across both states on Monday — the anniversary of King’s 1968 assassination.
The Sierra Club will hold events in 20 cities, including Indianapolis, Memphis and St. Paul, Minn., to push for labor as well as environmental rights.
In Washington, D.C., union members from the AFL-CIO and the Service Employees International Union, as well as activists from Greenpeace and MoveOn.org, will march on the Washington office of Koch Industries. Koch brothers Charles and David are known for their support of conservative causes and politicians.
Civil-rights figures will also be a part of the coalition’s campaign this week.
Lee Saunders, secretary-treasury of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, will travel across the country this week with civil-rights leader Al Sharpton to speak out against what he calls attacks on public-sector unions.
Union leaders realize that they must not let the public forget what happened in Wisconsin. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, told reporters that labor needs to capture this moment and turn into a movement for all Americans, not just union members.
“We need to take this moment of time and transform it into a movement. Not just the labor movement, but into a movement for all who want the American Dream to be revived,” Weingarten said.