Working People’s Day of Action was about demanding an end to the rigged economy and defending our freedoms. On February 24, working people across the country came together to defend our freedoms and fight for decent and equitable pay for our work, affordable health care, quality schools, vibrant communities, and a secure future for all.
Working People’s Day of Action was planned to take place in advance of the February 26 US Supreme Court hearings in Janus vs. AFSCME. The anti-union forces behind this case simply do not believe that working people should be afforded the same freedoms and opportunities as they are.
The day also recalls when Dr. Martin Luther King came to the aid of Memphis sanitation workers in February 1968. They were protesting discrimination, low pay, and inhumane conditions that had led to the gruesome death of two workers on the job. On February 12, the sanitation workers went on strike to demand that their dignity, their humanity, and their union be recognized. On February 21, the strikers began to march every day, carrying signs that boldly proclaimed, “I AM A MAN.”
This year, on February 24, working people and their allies joined together to demand an end to an economy that’s rigged against working people and defend the freedoms that Dr. King fought and died for. As Dr. King told the sanitation workers in Memphis, “Freedom is not something that is voluntarily given by the oppressor. It is something that must be demanded by the oppressed.”
AFM members across the country joined demonstrations with their union brothers and sisters to stand up for the right to unionize. Among them, Local 655 (Miami, FL) President Charles “Chas” Reskin, Secretary-Treasurer Jeffrey Apana, and other musicians attended a rally at Bayfront Park in Miami. Among representatives of Local 802 at the New York City rally were Maria DiPasquale and CLC delegate Marvin Moschel. In Washington, DC, demonstrators, including Local 161-710 Executive Board Director Doug Rosenthal, gathered at Freedom Plaza. Local 4 (Cleveland, OH) chartered a bus and filled it with musician members to participate in a Columbus rally.
“Under current law, every public service worker may choose whether or not to join the union—but the union is required to negotiate on behalf of all workers, whether they join or not. Since all the workers benefit from the union’s gains, it’s only fair that everyone chip in toward the cost. That’s why 40 years ago a unanimous Supreme Court approved the kind of cost-sharing arrangements known as ‘fair share.’ The Janus v. AFSCME case is an effort to outlaw this fair share procedure,” explains Local 4 President Leonard DiCosimo.
Representatives of Cleveland Jobs with Justice and the North Shore AFL-CIO Federation of Labor joined Local 4 on their bus. “Though the Janus case deals with public employees,” DiCosimo says, “it is still relevant to the primarily private-sector employees of the AFM. Our presumption is that, if the ruling is in favor of Janus, there will be a movement to get a case before the Supreme Court that is basically the same dynamic for private-sector unions.”