FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Fifty years after MLK fought and died for our freedoms, working people unite with women’s, racial justice, environmental, LGBTQ and faith leaders and lead resurgence in grassroots activism
Nationwide movement demands end to policies that rig the system and the economy ahead of Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 oral arguments
NATIONWIDE – Two days before the U.S. Supreme Court hears a case that could intervene in the ability of working people to stick together in strong unions, the billionaires, corporations and special interest groups behind Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 will face a massive wave of protests across the country. Demonstrating unrelenting opposition to attacks on working people, families, women and people of color, tens of thousands of people will march together to defend their basic freedoms.
On Saturday, the unprecedented mobilization convened by Jobs With Justice will span 28 cities including New York, Washington, DC, Chicago, Philadelphia, Memphis, Miami, Columbus, San Diego and more. Coast to coast, nurses, teachers, firefighters, librarians and other individuals will march arm in arm with leaders and activists from Color of Change, NextGen America, United We Dream, 350.org, Planned Parenthood, the Sierra Club, VoteVets, Greenpeace, the Poor People’s Campaign, NARAL Pro-Choice America, NAACP, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, New York Immigration Coalition, Patriotic Millionaires, and MomsRising as well as AFSCME, AFT, NEA, SEIU and AFL-CIO and many more national organizations.
The Working People’s Day of Action caps an unprecedented resurgence in grassroots efforts to realize the unfinished work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the sanitation workers who went on strike in Memphis 50 years ago. Dr. King died in Memphis defending the same workers’ rights that are now under attack at the Supreme Court.
Honoring Dr. King’s call to action, marchers on Feb. 24, will surge on to city streets with signs that read, “It’s About Freedom,” and “Unrig the System.”
“Dr. King died 50 years ago fighting for the same freedoms that are under attack today, said Omar Salaam, a Philadelphia sanitation worker, AFSCME DC33. “I’m marching on Saturday to make sure my kids and grandkids won’t grow up facing the same rigged system in another 50 years.”
In just the last few weeks, more than 70 cities observed a Moment of Silence to honor the two Memphis workers who were crushed to death on the job and sparked the pivotal 1968 strike; fast-food workers walked off the job in dozens of cities on the anniversary of the strike; and activists in the new I AM 2018 campaign and Poor People’s Campaign kicked off efforts to mobilize and energize thousands of people across the country.
“I am living proof that being a member, supporter, and activist in my local assists not only the lives of its members, but also the children whom we serve,” said Bonnee Breese Bentum who teaches at the Science Leadership Academy at Beeber in Philadelphia. “We have won counselors and nurses for every public school; pay increases after obtaining graduate degrees; and ensure safe and healthy building conditions for all our children. In a time where we, PFT Local 3, were victorious over the Koch brothers’ meddling in the city’s mayoral race, I am fully aware of what not having collective bargaining can do to the people our union serves.”
In New York, AFSCME President Lee Saunders and Memphis striker Baxter Leach will join thousands of working people and activists from across the city in a major protest at Foley Square. Leach, 78, saw Dr. King speak in Memphis in 1968 before joining the strike lines, and was among the strikers honored by the NAACP Image Awards earlier this month.
This past weekend, AFSCME President Lee Saunders noted on Politics Nation with Al Sharpton , “We’ve come a long way, but we’ve still got a long way to go. Economic rights are under attack, voting rights are under attack, immigration rights are under attack…What we’ve got to do is speak up and speak out in a very loud voice.”
In Washington, DC. Governors Kate Brown and Tom Wolf will join with VoteVets, faith leaders, the NAACP, and other national leaders at Freedom Plaza.
For more information on local events see below.
Saturday, February 24: “Working People’s Day of Action” Events
New York, NY | 12pm ET Rally | Foley Square
Thousands of New Yorkers to join AFSCME President Lee Saunders, 1968 Memphis striker Baxter Leach, Jobs With Justice Executive Director Sarita Gupta as well as leaders from VoteVets, MomsRising, the New York Immigration Coalition, the NAACP and the Patriotic Millionaires in a massive rally.
Philadelphia, PA | 10:30am ET Rally | Thomas Paine Plaza
Nurses, firefighters, teachers and other Philadelphians will join forces with Mayor Jim Kenney, leaders of Planned Parenthood and the New Sanctuary Movement, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and SEIU President Mary Kay Henry in a march from 6th & Arch to Thomas Paine Plaza.
Washington, DC | 10:30am ET Rally | Freedom Plaza at 14th and Pennsylvania Ave.
After a prayer led by Rev. Dr. Howard-John Wesley, Governors Kate Brown and Tom Wolf, Will Fischer of VoteVets, faith leaders, local small business owners and Akousa Ali of DC NAACP will join with thousands of DC residents to lift up MLK’s messages of freedom.
Columbus, OH | 11am ET Rally | Statehouse Steps
Congressman Tim Ryan will join Rev. Susan Smith of the Poor People’s Campaign, Lorain Ohio Immigrant Rights Association leader Anabel Barron, local business owners and the Ohio Environmental Council in a large rally on the steps of the Ohio Statehouse.
Miami, FL | 11am ET Rally | Bayfront Park
Dreamers, LGBTQ activists, and 350.org and faith leaders from Trinity Cme Church will rally at Bayfront Park with thousands of people across the city.
Memphis, TN | 12pm CT Rally | Clayborn Temple, 294 Hernando St
Leaders in the I AM 2018 movement including Cleophus Smith, who went on strike in 1968, will march with other living strikers, city sanitation workers and working people and activists across the city.
San Diego, CA | 3:30pm PT Rally | Convention Center
AFT President Randi Weingarten, NextGen Founder Tom Steyer and famed civil and labor rights leader Dolores Huerta to march with people from across the city.
Additional events will be held in: Albuquerque, NM; Atlanta, GA; Boyertown, PA; Buffalo, NY; Cedar Rapids, IA; Chicago, IL; Detroit, MI; Duncansville PA; Elizabeth, NJ; Erie, PA; Houston, TX; Las Vegas, NV; Louisville, KY; Madison, WI; Miami, FL; New Brunswick, NJ; Orlando, FL; Phoenix, AZ; Sioux Falls, SD; St. Louis, MO; St. Paul, MN, and elsewhere. For more information about these events or to set up an interview, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
“This Supreme Court case threatens all working people, but it’s Black workers who chose to live a life of public service who stand to lose the most,” said Rashad Robinson, Executive Director of Color Of Change. “Fifty years ago, Dr. King made the ultimate sacrifice to support union rights. Today, we carry on his legacy and the Memphis sanitation workers’ fight against poverty and prejudice to advance freedom for all working people.”
“Like other teachers across the country, I teach to make a difference in students’ lives,” said Gina Daniels, a history teacher from Licking Heights Local Schools in Pataskala, Ohio. “I don’t do it for the glamour of chalk dust under my nails or the thrill of supervising lunch duty. Teachers’ unions fight for smaller class sizes, for an equitable education for every student, to limit the effects of toxic testing on our students, and to get our students the support they deserve. At times like these, obstacles seem insurmountable, but together as a union, I have seen teachers make great changes that benefit our profession and our students’ education.”
“We’re standing shoulder to shoulder to rise up against those advancing their profits over our progress,” said Jobs With Justice Executive Director Sarita Gupta. “No court, no president, and no corporate bully can stop us when enough of us unite for our freedoms to achieve a decent living, equitable workplaces, strong health care, safe communities, and a better future.”
“In the Janus case, and on so many other fronts, we are faced with a choice: a race to the bottom where the richest keep getting richer and the rest of us fall further behind, or a society that puts in place policies that work for all,” said Seema Nanda, Executive Vice President and COO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
“Fifty years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated fighting for the right of sanitation workers to have decent wages and a safe workplace—the same fight we wage every day to win a better life for our members and communities,” said Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). “The funders of the Janus case—the Kochs, the Bradleys and others who wield tremendous political power—want to stop us. They want to rig the economy even further in their favor by eviscerating the best vehicle working people have to get ahead. On this Working People’s Day of Action, we’re taking King’s and our fight—the fight for jobs and justice—back to the streets.”
“We all want to leave this world better for tomorrow than it is today,” said NextGen America founder Tom Steyer. “That’s why we’re uniting on this day: so that the next generation can grow up healthy, happy, and safe. We will draw a line in the sand against the corporations rigging the rules against us just so they can profit by damaging our climate and towns. We won’t be held hostage to greed that sets our health, well-being and progress back. We’re proud to join together to speak up for decent jobs, clean water and air, and healthy communities.”
“The Janus v. AFSCME case is an attempt to divide working people from their co-workers and limit the power in numbers they have together in their union,” said Mary Kay Henry, International President of SEIU. “We know that the best long-term solution is to re-write the rules and unrig the economy. That’s why we are calling on our elected leaders to take action to help millions of working people join together in unions.”
“Women’s economic security is on the line,” said Fatima Goss Graves, President and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center. “Across America, women are raising their voices and fighting for basic freedoms—the ability to band together and achieve equal pay, affordable health care and safe work environments. It’s not acceptable that millions of women and their families are struggling to put food on their tables in the richest country in the world. On February 24, women will proudly march in streets around the country to demand their full equality.”
May Boeve, Executive Director of 350.org said, “We stand together as part of a mass movement against attacks on our communities right to a world where our air and water is clean, where our climate and environment is protected, and where workers’ rights are safeguarded. We won’t let the Supreme Court be used as a pawn for special interests who profit from dividing workers. Only together, can we achieve the country we deserve – one where we ramp up climate action, protect worker rights, and safeguard protections for our diverse communities.”
“Dr. King made the ultimate sacrifice supporting union rights. He believed that union rights were civil rights, and that all working people deserved dignity,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “I have no doubt that Dr. King would fully support all our efforts to defend working people against the assaults on our freedoms by special interest groups like those behind the Janus Supreme Court case.”
“We have more and more people who are struggling with wage inequality, and that is by design,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia. “Attacks on unions are attacks on the middle class. Unions have built that strong middle class, and they have built protections for people who don’t have the benefit of having a union.”
“The struggle for climate justice depends on the ability of working people to organize together to fight for a more equitable economy and healthy communities while challenging the fossil fuel executives and billionaires who are polluting our planet, our workplaces and our democracy,” said Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club. “The Working People’s Day of Action is a step forward in building solidarity across all progressive movements in order to confront the shared challenges we face.”