March 28, 2011

CHICAGO (March 28)—The UTU Illinois Legislative Board will join with the Illinois AFL-CIO and its member unions in a week-long series of public rallies throughout the state to protest recent attempts to strip collective-bargaining rights from working people.

The rallies, to be held the week of April 4th, will climax with a monster rally in Chicago’s Daley Plaza on Saturday, April 9.

Community-education and outreach events will also be held in each city to explain the origin of workers’ rights, the rise of the labor movement as a mechanism to protect those rights, and the meaning of the campaigns in Wisconsin and other states to strip away the rights of public employees such as school teachers, police officers, prison guards and fire fighters.

“Public workers’ rights to unionize are coming under an attack unprecedented since the Great Depression,” said State Legislative Director Robert W. Guy. “We consider an attack on public employees an attack on us.”

Guy called it “naïve” to assume the current conservative campaign against workers’ rights would be limited only to public employees.

“Make no mistake about it—we’re next,” he said “Right now extremists are pretending that they have a problem only with public employees being organized. But once the public employees are stripped of their rights, those forces will come after unionized private-sector workers, including railroad employees.

“They hate the idea of employees banding together and bargaining collectively for wages, retirement benefits and safety in the workplace,” he said. “They believe management’s rights should be total.”

Guy said public sympathy is overwhelmingly on the side of workers’ rights, even among people who are not members of unions and do not enjoy collective bargaining at their own workplaces.

“Recent public opinion polls show that by an almost 2-to-1 margin, people do not believe collective-bargaining rights should be weakened,” he said.

“But sympathy registered in a poll is not enough to protect our rights,” Guy said. “Sympathy has got to be registered in public through mass demonstrations. That’s why the Illinois AFL-CIO is calling all of the state’s working people to this week-long series of rallies.”

The AFL-CIO said the Illinois rallies will be held on the following timetable:

April 4:

• Decatur—5:30 p.m. at Central Park. For info call Carl Draper (UTU Member) at (217) 791-1279.
• Kankakee—5 p.m. at Community Resource Center, 150 N. Indiana Ave. Call Mike Smith at (815) 932-1726.
• Ottawa—5 p.m. at Washington Park. Call Dan Mercer at (815) 725-0402.
• Peoria—5 p.m. at Workers Memorial/City Hall. Call Mike Everett at (309) 673-3691.
• Rock Island—5 p.m. at Martin Luther King Center, 600 MLK Drive. Call Tracy Kurowski at (309) 738-3196.

April 6:

• Bloomington—7:30 p.m. at LIUNA 362 Hall in Bloomington. Call Ronn Morehead at (309) 828-3222.

April 7:

• Peoria—5 p.m. at Peoria County Courthouse. Call Mike Everett at (309) 673-3691
• Springfield—5 p.m. at Illinois State Capitol. Call Terry Reed at (217) 523-3722.

April 9:

• Statewide WE ARE ONE rally hosted by Chicago Federation of Labor and Illinois AFL-CIO. 1 p.m., tentative location is Daley Plaza in center of downtown. Contact CFL at (312) 222-1000 or Illinois AFL-CIO at (217) 544-4014.

“Because the Illinois Legislative Board offices are only a couple of blocks from the site of the Chicago rally, we will have the office open Saturday morning to distribute signs and informative materials to everyone who wants to attend,” Guy said.

“We invite all those who are in town for the rally to come by the office for refreshments, meet other brothers and sisters and stock up on solidarity before going over to Daley Plaza for the rally,” he said.

“This is our chance to show our brothers and sisters in organized labor that the UTU and Illinois are with them—and to show the millions of unorganized American workers that the benefits of collective bargaining can be theirs too whenever they ask.”