On Monday, nearly 1,000 people marched through downtown Pittsburgh in solidarity with the national “We Are One” campaign. The AFL-CIO organized the nationwide collection of community events, but the crowds included union and non-union workers, retired folks, self-employed, students, teachers, and more. We gathered at the downtown EQT tower, headquarters of the Equitable Gas Company, and marched to Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett’s local office at Piatt Place to make our points. We want corporations to pay taxes. We want regulations on Marcellus shale drilling in the state. We want Corbett to halt his disgraceful and wicked violence on our families and our lives.
The GOP attack on Americans began in Wisconsin nearly two months ago. More than 20 states have joined the assault. Our movement is growing, too. I’ve been to a handful of these events lately, and the crowds have grown larger with each of them. Passing motorists, including bus drivers, on the streets honked their horns and shouted their support. That hasn’t happened before.
As the Wisconsin teachers and their supporters say, we can keep it up “One Day Longer”. But we’ll succeed sooner with your help. If you’re unemployed, you have the time. If you have a job, you need to protect it. No, your job is not safe. Who do you think they’re coming for next?
As I reflected on the day’s activity, I realized that four important events converged this week. King was assassinated in 1968 in Memphis, where had gone to support local sanitation workers in their strike for collective bargaining rights and better working conditions.
Pennsylvania Senator John Heinz, heir of a wealthy family, always understood and respected America’s middle class working families. April 4 marked the 20th anniversary of his 1991 death in an aviation accident. He was a good man and the last Republican for whom I had any respect.
Cesar Chavez devoted his life to fighting for the health, safety, and dignity of migrant farmworkers in California and the rest of the country. He died on April 23, 1993. Last week, President Obama proclaimed March 31, of every year, as “Cesar Chavez Day” in the United States.
Nate Smith was a labor organizer in Pittsburgh who fought for union construction jobs for minorities and women in the 1960s and 70s – a time when neither the unions nor the companies wanted them around. Nate died on March 31 of this year.
Those four men were dedicated, passionate, and tireless. They believed in Americans. They believed in dignity and justice for everyone. Now, America’s middle class is under attack like never before. I wish they all were here to help us today.
In your memories, gentlemen, WE ARE ONE.
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