Saturday, March 12, 2011

Exercising Our Freedom: A Rally for Labor

"Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed." Abraham Lincoln.

And in that spirit, hundreds of people gathered at the state capitol in Charleston, West Virginia today to show solidarity with the workers in Wisconsin, Ohio and other states whose right to collective bargaining is being stripped or threatened. Larry and I were there; while not usually a political activist, what happened in Wisconsin disturbed me. In America, we don't take away people's rights. In West Virginia, many people still remember all too well the bloody struggle to establish the union for coal miners who were being treated terribly by the coal companies at that time. Today there is a movement afoot to make Blair Mountain a memorial as the site of the Battle of Blair Mountain, a bloody conflict between coal miners and federal troops sent to break up the strike and break the resolve of the miners to establish a union that could fight for their rights. In this state, unions are part of our fabric; to see them threatened on other states is a threat here too.

It was a peaceful and vociferous crowd today. Speaker after speaker, many of them Democratic state legislators, expounded on the value of labor to our state, and affirmed their commitment to stand with labor in the future. A speaker from Ohio asked those present to help them in their battle with their governor who threatens the same kind of action as what happened in Wisconsin.

I am not a union member; my father was not union either. This post is not to engage in an argument about whether unions are necessary or not; what I want to remember is the peaceful gathering of hundreds of people in support of what they believe. That's the America I love, and I am so glad to know that we can still stand up and voice our opinions in peace and safety.

A few more pictures from today's gathering:


Fellow Jackson Countians at the rally. Century Aluminum retirees recently had their health benefits stripped away, benefits that were guaranteed to them when they were working as part of their retirement package.

Natalie Tennant, West Virginia's Secretary of State, made a rousing speech. She's currently running for governor and I think she might have gained a few votes today.


Sam Hickman favored us with an old song about a worker in a meat-packing plant; the words were as true today as when the song was written.


A worker raises her sign, while on the boulevard, a stretch limo passes the gathering.

8 comments:

A Vintage Green said...

We are watching this news every evening. The negative power against Winconsin workers is very scary.

Granny Sue said...

It is worrying, Joy. I don't know where this is going; some believe the changes are necessary but I have a hard time believing that when corporations get huge tax breaks and their profits continue to rise, and wealth continues to be concentrated in a small percentage of super-rich people.

Granny Kate said...

I think the necessary part is to get people to wake up and realize when they vote extremists into office they are going to get extreme actions. Maybe some will think twice before putting people like Walker into office.

I applaud you in taking a stand.

Verde Farm said...

Great post!! It is scary what is happening in Wisconsin for sure. Grass Roots efforts still work--and people have to get out and have their voices heard :)

Jenny said...

This whole thing is so sad with workers caught in the middle. The union making demands that the government or business owners just cannot pay for anymore in this economy.

I've been very blessed in that we've always worked at a nonunion company that treated their employees like family - literally. Even during the worst times these past few years they gave their employees a yearly bonus & instead of laying workers off they give them anything to do - even if it's just sweeping floors, so they can keep their paycheck. A few times they have had to cut people hours but they have never laid anyone off.

I can't imagine how hard all of this has been on the workers. Then we consider Japan & Haiti - we could be living in a place with no home or job at all.

George said...

I am not necessarily opposed to unions, but I do not believe government workers should have the right to collectively bargain. Government employees bargaining with other government employees using someone else's money is a very bad idea. It's no wonder states are going broke. I read that Wisconsin gov't workers contribute $1 for every $57 in benefits. Doesn't seem that the taxpayer got very good representation at the negotiating table does it?

I find the argument that corporations are getting rich off tax breaks a little simplistic as well. It's a little brought up fact that taxes are paid by consumers, not companies! Companies don't just absorb higher taxes, they pass them along to consumers. I sure wish some of those so called tax breaks would be passed on to my company, we currently pay about .37 of every dollar we earn to the government. And that doesn't count sales tax, property tax, etc., etc.

Granny Sue said...

There are many sides to this issue, and I know we don't all agree on the best way to handle it. I have worked union and non-union and prefer non-union myself; however I know many people who come from a union tradition and who remember too well the days before they had union bargaining rights. What concerns me is the way the situation was dealt with in Wisconsin; forcing such change down people's throats is not the way to make a positive change. The polarization of politics in our country at this time is not good for any of us; compromise and working together is the only way we can get through difficult times. Will that happen? I am not optimistic that it will.

FOLKWAYS NOTEBOOK said...

What next -- are our rights slowly being taken away? Scary times. -- barbara

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...