FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
February 7, 2018
Liz Cattaneo, liz(at)jwj.org
Tens of thousands of people plan actions to honor Dr. King’s fight for basic freedom for sanitation workers and protest the rigged economy, just days before Supreme Court will hear case meant to attack working people
Nationwide – Today, leaders from the women’s and civil rights movements, labor unions, environmental justice groups, religious leaders and others are announcing plans to mobilize for a massive nationwide day of action on February 24. The “Working People’s Day of Action,” convened by workers’ rights organization Jobs With Justice, will span events in dozens of cities across the country, with tens of thousands expected to join the call for an end to policies that rig the economy and political system against working people.
Inspired by Dr. King and the sanitation workers who went on strike in Memphis 50 years ago, the Working People’s Day of Action comes amid a resurgence in grassroots efforts to defend basic freedoms, including the right to join together in unions. In the past few weeks alone, the nation has witnessed transit equity actions honoring Rosa Parks, planned strikes by fast food workers across the South and the growth of movements calling attention to the intersection of economic and racial justice – including the I AM 2018 campaign and the Poor People’s Campaign. The Working People’s Day of Action happens just days before the Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, a case funded by billionaires and corporate interests to attack the rights of working people.
“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.”
“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.”
“My friends and neighbors are working harder than ever, but too many of us are still struggling to get ahead,” said Jeana Campolo, a therapeutic program aide at the Mount Vernon Developmental Center in Ohio. “Standing together on February 24 is just as important as it was 50 years ago. Together we can win dignity, a decent living, and make our voices heard.”
As billionaires and corporate special interests, aided by the Trump Administration and Republicans in Congress, ramp up efforts to scale back labor and voting rights, and the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 case, recent reports indicate that the economic and political systems continue to enrich only a few. Meanwhile, fewer than 40 percent of Americans can afford a minor emergency and more than 80 percent of the world’s wealth is going to the top one percent.
“Dr. King understood that civil rights are labor rights and that economic rights are human rights,” said Lee Saunders, President of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. “On February 24, we stand in Dr. King’s honor because the freedoms he fought and died for are the freedoms so aggressively under attack today.”
“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 American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (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.”
“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.”
“Working people are rising up against this attack and will stick together no matter what,” said Service Employees International Union (SEIU) President Mary Kay Henry. “Our nation’s leaders should make it easier to join together and use our power in numbers, not more difficult. America needs more good, union jobs that provide financial security for families and strengthen our communities.”
“Strong unions provide a powerful voice to working people and a road to the middle class, particularly for women and people of color,” said National Education Association (NEA) President Lily Eskelsen Garcia. “To attack them is to attack anyone who seeks to better their own lives, the lives of their families, and entire communities.”
Events are already planned in dozens of major cities, including San Diego, Memphis, Washington, DC, Miami, Chicago, Detroit, Saint Paul, New York, Columbus and Philadelphia. Workers participating in the events come from a wide range of industries, and include firefighters, child protective services workers, nurses and teachers.
“This Supreme Court decision is another attempt at taking away an effective pathway for economic mobility for Black communities,” said Charlene A. Carruthers, National Director of the Black Youth Project (BYP100). “Good public sector jobs have provided countless families, especially Black women, with the ability to sustain themselves and shape their futures. Across the country, working people will be mobilizing against the wealthy and powerful forces rigging the rules in their favor. Communities will be in the streets demanding investments in our communities and divestments from systems that don’t serve us.”
“Women and our allies are proving over and over again that we refuse to let this administration, and their dangerous allies, silence us,” said NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue. “This event will be another moment for women to signal loudly that we will resist if politicians attempt to take away our freedom to make choices about what’s best for ourselves and our families, and push for a world where we all have the same opportunities to succeed.”
“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.”
The day of action is intended to advance the unfinished work of Dr. King and spark political momentum heading into the 2018 elections and beyond. Partners of Jobs With Justice who will join events around the country on February 24 include the National Women’s Law Center, The Advancement Project, NARAL, Greenpeace USA, NextGen America, Sierra Club, AFSCME, AFT, SEIU, NEA, AFL-CIO, civil rights leaders, elected officials and more.
“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.”
Said Annie Leonard, Executive Director, Greenpeace USA, “The biggest lesson Greenpeace has learned in almost half a century of working to protect our planet is that we are stronger when we stand together. In Janus v. AFSCME, Council 31, the Supreme Court will decide whether to interfere with workers’ right to stand together to secure a living wage, health benefits, safe working conditions and more. That’s why Greenpeace is standing with workers to call for the safeguarding of their – of all of our – right to stand together and collectively advance a better future for everyone.”