By PAUL MAVERICK
Union workers and their family members flooded the streets of downtown Los Angeles on Saturday, March 26, 2011, to take part in the AFL-CIO’s day-long “We Are One” event, in a show of solidarity with the embattled public employees of Wisconsin and numerous other states, where collective bargaining rights have come under attack by corporate Republican governors.
The laborers and their families traveled to Los Angeles from all over the Western United States and Canada, and belong to unions as diverse as the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the United Farm Workers, the United Food and Commercial Workers, the Service Employees International Union, the United Teachers Los Angeles, the Sheet Metal Workers Union, the Laborers’ International Union of North America, and the Screen Actors Guild, among many others. AFL officials estimated the crowd size at 20,000.
The workers filled the street in a massive march from Staples Center all the way to Pershing Square, making several stops along the way. First was the Luxe Hotel at LA Live, where UNITE HERE International President John Wilhelm highlighted the struggle of housekeepers at the Luxe, who have been working without a contract for 18 months. Farther down the route, the marchers stopped at a Ralphs supermarket, where UFCW is negotiating their new contract; they halted again at Chase Bank, where the Loomis cash management company has cut pensions for their armored car drivers – who are represented by the Teamsters.
When the throng of workers reached Pershing Square, the park was soon filled to capacity, as leaders of the labor movement took the stage. LA County Federation of Labor Secretary-Treasurer Maria Elena Durazo credited the public employees of Wisconsin with “waking up the labor movement,” and the Teamsters President James Hoffa thundered, “We will not give up collective bargaining at any cost!” Rocco Davis, of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, denounced the “corporate pigs whose greed knows no bounds,” adding that, “you take pigs to the slaughterhouse.” The working families were also addressed by Wisconsin Professional Fire Fighters President Mahlon Mitchell, who traveled to LA to describe the “battle of our lifetime” in his home state, and to link the Wisconsin struggle to the fate of workers nationwide, quoting the century-old motto of the labor movement, “An injury to one, is an injury to all.”
Music was provided by Grammy Award winner Tom Morello (formerly of “Rage Against the Machine”) and the LA-based Latin/hip hop fusion band Ozomatli. In addition, a grocery worker performed his own rap when the march stopped in front of Ralphs, and the drum corps from East LA’s Wilson High School kept time along the parade route.
The video below provides a detailed look at the day’s events. It includes conversations with union workers and student activists, examples of the protest signs on display, excerpts of the musical performances, and highlights from the speeches at both ends of the march.