Low wage workers strike from coast to coast, across US South

by on November 19, 2015
Kinston $15 rally Nov 15, 2015

Kinston $15 rally Nov 15, 2015

A wave of strikes and protests by low-wage workers fighting for a $15 minimum hourly wage and a union swept the U.S. on Nov. 10, and made this the largest day of action ever as this movement enters its third year. From Boston to Los Angeles; Seattle to Chicago; New York to Durham, N.C.; and Philadelphia to Atlanta, nearly every major city saw strikes at fast food restaurants during the work day and larger demonstrations in the evening. In total, some 500 cities counted strikes and other actions throughout the day.

Fast food, home health care, childcare, airport, retail and low-wage workers from many other sectors took to the streets to raise their demands for $15 and a union. What began in November 2012 with a group of fast food workers in New York City who walked off the job has since sparked a national movement that has become a rallying cry for workers everywhere.

An encouraging development with the latest round of strikes is the growing alliance between the Black Lives Matter movement, the immigrants’ rights movement, and the fight for 15 and a union. In many cities, visible contingents were organized by Black Lives Matter and immigrant rights activists within the demonstrations, and many speakers raised the connection between the low-wage workers struggle and the fight against racism and police terror.

On the same day, a demonstration of many thousands confronted the Republican presidential candidates’ debate in Milwaukee. The demonstration raised the demand for $15 and a union, to end racism and police violence against oppressed communities, to stop deportations of immigrant workers, and many other issues. Nate Hamilton, the brother of Dontre Hamilton, who was murdered by the Milwaukee police, was a featured speaker at the demonstration.

Which way forward?

Charleston, NC

Charleston, NC

Most of the demonstrations around the country on Nov. 10 ended with protests outside of city halls, with calls for the elected politicians — who represent the bosses and their interests — to take action around the demands for $15 and a union.

A key question for this movement — an upsurge that has been marked by militancy and the leadership of Black and Latino/a workers, along with many women and young workers — will be whether it will maintain its independence and build rank-and-file democratic union organizations in the face of the looming 2016 presidential elections. Without rank-and-file democratic organization and political independence, these elections tend to influence the main character of the workers struggles of mobilizing workers power eventually pulling popular movements away from strikes and street action, which is what is needed, into the framework set by the two major political parties, both of which represent the interests of the big capitalists and bankers.

The courageous actions by low-wage workers, who have gone on strike multiple times in the last several years and have helped breathe new life into the U.S. labor movement, clearly demonstrate their commitment to staying the course and seeing this struggle through. That these workers are now broadening relationships with the Black Lives Matter movement and others indicates a new potential for this movement to expand and deepen.

Tying the workers of this movement in the US South to a strategy to the developing strategy of the Southern Workers Assembly’s to organize a Southern Labor Congress, is critical to infusing social movement unionism as a perspective for organizing the working-class throughout the South.

State DHHS workers rally in Kinston, NC, join the fight for $15 per hour, union rights and Black Lives Matter movements

On Tuesday, November 10, members of the UE local 150, North Carolina Public Service Workers Union that work at Caswell Developmental Center held a rally at Kinston City Hall, joining with over 500 such actions nationwide. The action called for wages of at least $15 per hour, union rights and the recognition that Black Workers Lives Matter. Department of Health and Human Services workers and other state and city workers support striking fast food, child care and other low wage workers and are organizing for the same issues at their workplaces. A majority of front-line D.H.H.S. employees currently make less than $15 per hour, even those working with the state over 20 years. $15 per hour for a full-time worker is just over $30, 000 per year.

Peggy Price said she’s worked at Caswell for nearly 20 years, she told the press “But the problem that I see is, why should we have to work two jobs to make ends meet, when we’re working for, as they say, the State of North Carolina?” Price said. “All we’re asking is that we be paid fairly for what we have worked. Not just being made to stay over, and then when it comes time for us to do our time sheets, you want us to just take time off. You’re interrupting our lives when we have to stay over, because it’s part of our job to stay over. We cannot leave, some of us. So, why can’t we be paid for our overtime?”

Memphis, TN

Memphis, TN

Price and her fellow workers called for a $15-per-hour minimum wage and proper pay for overtime instead of comp time.

“And it’s not just, to me, just dealing with (mandatory overtime),” Price said. “Some get the choice to say they’re not going to do it. And the supervisors accept that. And then a lot of us, if we say we’re not going to do it, we get penalized — written up, possibility of suspension or maybe even terminated. We just want fairness out there and the pay that we deserve.”

“$15 per hour is a bare minimum that we are asking for,” stated Milton Green, a member of UE150 and a Developmental Technician at Caswell Center. “These wages we are asking for are just a beginning of what we need to survive. Working at Caswell Center, I am always behind on my bills.”

The union workers at the Kinston rally were specifically calling for all pay scales to be increased to at least $15 per hour. They called for state, city and all levels of government to pay workers a living wage. Currently, employees at many DHHS facilities do not get paid for overtime, despite being forced to work hundreds of hours of overtime every year due to understaffing. The rally demanded payments for overtime work, not compensatory time because workers, their communities and the Kinston economy are losing hundreds of thousands of dollars annually from this policy.

“You wanna know why we are always coming to work tired?” retorted Robbin Clarke-Hines a union member and DT-2 at Caswell Center. She continued, “It’s because we are forced to work two jobs to make ends meet. And when we work overtime at Caswell, they take our personal time and don’t want to pay us.”

The rally also demanded the internationally recognized right for public workers to collectively bargain, a right banned under state General Statute 95-98. In recent years, the United Nations International Labor Organization has ruled that this state law banning collective bargaining rights for public employees is a violation of international human rights. The workers are also requesting to have a representative in grievance meetings, to defend themselves against unfair disciplines and firings.

Richmond, VA

Richmond, VA

The rally had a third demand which centered around the national movement calling for an end to police killings, most commonly known as Black Lives Matter. Recent uprisings in Baltimore, M.D. and Ferguson, M.O. have drawn international attention to the disproportionate number of Black people killed by law enforcement. The workers at the rally support the demand for justice for those killed by police, but are also extending the demands into their work places saying that “Black Workers Lives Matter too!” They are demanding the DHHS facilities hire enough staff and provide proper equipment to reduce injuries in Black-majority jobs.

“My story reads like this,” stated Bonita Johnson, veteran 21-year employee of DHHS at Murdoch Center, “I’ve been standing on my feet over 20 years for the state, 8 years I’ve had to work a second part-time job because of my low wages. This created a disease in my feet called Plantar Fasciitis. But the state refuses to pay my workers compensation. We say Black lives matter at work too!”

Other UE150 chapters rally in Eastern NC

Simultaneous as the Kinston rally, there were other rallies in rural eastern N.C. Over 35 people picketed and rallied at City of Greenville City Hall. The rally included fast food workers, adjunct professors at nearby universities, public workers and the Pitt County Coalition Against Racism. A rally in Rocky Mount included CAAMWU-UE 150 and laid off Tri County worker from Cummins Rocky Mount Engine Plant and call for rehiring Tri-County workers who petitioned for pay raise and were replaced by higher paid Insource workers.

Durham, NC

Durham, NC

Later that night, nearly 400 people rallied and marched through the streets of Durham, concluding at the City Hall. Marchers included UE150 members that work for the City, Central Regional Hospital and Murdoch Center. All rallies called for $15 per hour and union rights for all workers and to support Black Lives Matter.

Rocky Mount UE

Rocky Mount UE

In N.C., the City of Greensboro recently adopted a commitment to raise all municipal workers’ salaries to $15 per hour over the next few years. This is a growing trend across the state, U.S. South and entire nation – Birmingham, A.L. also passed a similar ordinance, following on the heels of Seattle, Los Angeles, Oakland, New York and many other areas.

S.W.A. Supports Days of Grace

by on August 11, 2015

Days of Grace

Days of Grace March and Rally

Charleston, S.C.


Labor Day Weekend

September 5, 9:00am: National Mass March & Rally

Southern Workers Assembly Meeting:
12:30pm (immediately following the march)
at ILA local 1422 Union hall
1142 Morrison Dr. Charleston SC

Strategy Conference

Saturday, Sept 5 2:00 – 6:00pm Conference @ ILA Local 1422 Hall
1142 Morrison Dr
Sunday, Sept 6 7:30am Interdenominational Service (Location TBA)
Sunday, Sept 6 10:00am – 3:00pm Conference @ ILA Local 1422 Hall
1142 Morrison Dr

Labor Must Join the Fight to Stop the War on Black America!

The assassination of the Charleston, South Carolina 9 in bible study at the Mother Emanuel AME Church by a white racist terrorist continues to point out how the corporate owned media and government policies criminalize Black and people of color to make us scapegoats for the deep economic crisis caused by a system of corporate greed.

Like the racist terrorist bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama that killed 4 young Black girls and injured 22 others in 1963; Black and people of conscience throughout the U.S. and internationally are rightfully outraged by this criminal attack on the Mother Emanuel AME Church.

The mantra by those who oppose labor rights, voting rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights, quality public education, expanding Medicare and living wages, that this act of racist terror has brought people in South Carolina closer together, symbolized by taking down the confederate flag, does not address the real issues and the forces that devalue Black lives and divide the people.

It is no coincidence that Dylan Roof chose the Mother Emanuel AME church to carry out his racist terror. This church represents a historical place where people of conscience meet to organize and plan the struggles against injustice and for Freedom; a legacy left by Denmark Vesey a founder of Mother Emanuel AME who gave his life in the Black Freedom Struggle.

Racism is more than negative thoughts in white folk’s heads. It is part of an organized system of capitalism that devalues anything for profits, not only in the U.S. but globally. The extrajudicial police and vigilante killings of unarmed Black people every 28 hours, and the failure of the courts to convict these killers, sends a racist message that the government devalues Black lives.

Young Black and people of conscience across the country are rebelling against this economic and politically driven racist climate that has declared War on Black people in the form of economic, political and social violence – the police killings, high unemployment, attacks on public education, environmental racism, mass incarceration, gentrification, low wages and attacks on worker, women, union and human rights. In addition to being the conditions of an oppressed people; they are the conditions of the most impacted section of the working-class.

To challenge and defeat this racist system, the power of the people, especially the Black and general working-class must be organized and mobilized against the economic and political forces and system that places profits over human needs and rights.

The last 7 years has made clear, that without the organized power of the people, especially the Black and general working-class, that elected officials at best, try to exercise power within a system dominated by the corporate power of the 1-percent. Most unfortunately follow the dictates of big money.

Just as the ILA 1422 struggle for labor rights built a national and international movement that demanded and won the Freedom of the Charleston 5, all workers must utilize the Days of Grace/Rage mobilization to inspire all of labor to mobilize their power to stop this War on Black America and the working-class!

End Racism and Police Terror!

Raise the minimum wage to $15/hour!


Gov’t funding for full employment, not for war!

Single Payer National Health Care for All!

Repeal bans on Collective Bargaining Rights for All Public Workers!

Free education through college, abolish student debt!

Continue reading »

Aug 9: All Out for Solidarity City!

by on July 30, 2014
Solidarity City

Aug 9: All Out for Solidarity City!
Workers Fighting To Organize the South!

August 9 | 10am-5pm | 803 Harris St, Goldsboro, NC

Visit the Facebook Event Page

On Saturday, August 9 workers from across NC and other Southern states will gather in Goldsboro, NC for Solidarity City – a day long gathering of workers to discuss strategy, develop their organizing skills, and lay out how to continue to build a united effort to organize the South.

Summer 2014 will be a time of looking back to the history of the South for inspiration and guidance for the contemporary Southern freedom movement. It is in this spirit that Moral Freedom Summer has taken root.

In the late 1960s, prominent civil rights leaders focused their attention to the struggle for economic justice for all Americans. Shortly before Dr. King was assassinated, SCLC and allied organizations launched the Poor People’s campaign, which called on the federal government to take bold steps to eradicate poverty in the richest nation on earth. The campaign climaxed in Resurrection City in 1969, a diverse gathering of low income and unemployed people from across the nation in Washington DC. (An important “second act” of the Poor People’s Campaign was the Charleston Hospital workers strike of 1969.)

In this spirit, we will convene low wage workers in August 2014 for education, culture building and strategizing. We believe that such a gathering will be a powerful experience for workers, labor activists, the Forward Together movement and the broad public.

Solidarity City will carry on the spirit of the Forward Together Moral movement with a specific focus on the issue of living wages and labor rights, focusing on the goal of $15 and the freedom to form a union for all workers.

The conference will be targeted at workers from North Carolina and workers from other Southern states but will also include clergy, community activists and organizers. Worker participants can be union members or be unorganized.

We hope you can join us as we make the call to create a new Poor People’s Movement to change the South and change the nation and demand a future for working people.

Email us at solidaritycity2014@gmail.com for more info


A Message to the Moral Monday Movement June 16th, 2014

by on June 15, 2014


The RIGHT to a voice and power at work is a Human Right!

A Message to the Moral Monday Movement June 16th, 2014:
  • Raise the minimum wage to $15/hr.
  • Repeal GS 95-98, Collective Bargain-ing Rights for All Public Workers!
  • NO to HB 677 – city worker’s right to un-ion dues deduction.
  • Stop attacks on state workers!
    Restore full personnel rights and the right to grieve all matters!
  • Fully fund Public Education!
    Stop pitting educators against educators!
  • Labor rights for farm workers!
  • Restore Cuts to Unemployment Insurance!
  • Workers Bill of Rights to protect all workers!
Drop the Charges Against All Moral Monday Arrestees
Reverse the Attacks on Free Speech at the Legislature
Build local worker’s assemblies!

SWA Salutes Teachers Resistance To Education Cuts in NC – Moral Monday Action, June 9, 2014

by on June 14, 2014

Onwards to building local Worker Assemblies !

Thousands of teachers, bus drivers, housekeepers, kitchen and other education workers, along with students and parents from hundreds of schools across the state of North Carolina have been organizing over the past year, starting with the incredible “walk-in” at school flag poles on Nov. 4, 2013 protesting Gov. McCrory and the General Assembly’s massive cuts to public education and attacks on education workers rights. Since then, there has been a flood of rallies and actions by public education supporters at county school board meetings across the state that effectively shut down the 25% contract scheme. Several teachers and students have gotten arrested at the Legislature as part of the Moral Monday movement. NC is 48th out of 50 states in both per-pupil funding for public education and average teacher’s pay.

Raleigh Worker SpeakOut SWA NCAE UEGovernor Pat McCrory, State budget Director and retail store mogul Art Pope, Sen. Thom Tillis, Rep. Phil Berger are to blame for the slashing funds for instructional supplies and textbooks, eliminating thousands of teacher assistants’ positions, gutting tenure rights for teachers (making it easier to fire teachers). Now they want to hold a carrot of a minor pay raise over teachers as an effort to eliminate your rights and further erode public schools.

It’s time to stop being afraid, ”stated Clara Stiers, a Westlake Middle School counselor speaking at a town hall in Apex. “Today is the beginning.”

Workers taking collective action, such as the walk-ins and speaking out at county school boards, and joining the Moral Monday movement is the only way that working people can defend our jobs, our communities and the vital services that we provide. We must continue to stay organized and support each other in our struggles for democracy in the work place. The initial call for a walk-out teachers strike shows how determined many teachers are to fight for quality education for the students that includes job security for education workers. The walk-ins that were later organized to engage education workers, parents, students and our communities, begins a the direction of forming people’s education assemblies where real educational democracy comes to life.

This action – like many before including the recent fast food and Walmart workers strikes – was a continuation of united struggle for workers across N.C., the South and the entire country. We must continue to meet after work, before work, during lunch and continue to organize actions that bring voice and power to workers. After all, we run the schools, the factories, the mental health institutions, the cities and all of society. Should we not be allowed to make decisions about how things are run?

In fact, not only is it teachers but all public service workers, and all workers generally that have seen a major decline in their standard of living and increased work loads. State employees in NC have not seen any real raise since 2008. According to the Economic Policy Institute, from 1983 to 2010 the bottom 60 percent of Americans actually lost wealth, despite the fact that the overall U.S. economy has grown over this same time period,

Even in a state without collective bargaining rights for public employees, workers will find ways to organize and express our opposition to bad decisions made at the expense of our lives, our dignity and our communities. We must continue to work to over-turn the anti-worker, anti-student, anti-poor the ban public workers that basic right to a union contract and right-to-work (for less) laws.

The Southern Workers Assembly – composed of workers from across the public sector, in private industry and also farm workers – salute and congratulate the bold and important action of education workers on November 4 to finally take a little power back. We vow to continue to work hand-in-hand with the NC Association of Educators, Organize 2020 and other rank-n-file education workers across the state to help improve schools and our workers rights. We support the work of Public Schools First NC to stop privatization of public education, so that private companies can not get rich off public services.

At the Statewide NC Workers Fightback Conference in September 2013, we launched the Workplace Democracy campaign and Local Workers Assemblies in regions across the state including Charlotte (Western NC), Goldsboro (Eastern NC), and Durham (Triangle area). These formations can help education workers unite with all other workers in public and private jobs to fight for our common interests, build democracy in the workplace and challenge corporate and government forces to achieve fully funding of all public services and build workers power.

Join us next Monday, June 16 at the Moral Monday focused on labor and workers rights!

An injury to one is an injury to all!

Education is a right!

Build the Workers Assemblies!

Organize the South!                                                                      June 9, 2014