Solidarity with N.C. Teacher’s Walk-in
Southern Workers Assembly Salutes the November 4 Education Worker Walk-In’s
On Monday, November 4 thousands of teachers, bus drivers, housekeepers, kitchen and other education workers from several dozen schools across the state of North Carolina organized a “walk-in” before school to protest Gov. McCrory’s massive cuts to public education and attacks on education workers rights. NC is 48th out of 50 states in both per-pupil funding for public education and average teacher’s pay.
Governor 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), another year with frozen pay and much more.
“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 this walk-in, 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.
Stop the Attacks on Labor’s Democratic and Human Rights:
Drop the Charges Against Moral Monday Labor Rights Arrestee Saladin Muhammad!
The opening trial for the 940 North Carolina Moral Mondays Campaign arrestees started with the case of Saladin Muhammad, a long-time North Carolina and U.S. national labor and social justice activist, on Oct. 4, 2013, in the N.C. District Court, where he was found guilty by a judge for trespassing, disorderly conduct and violating rules of the General Assembly while peacefully protesting with others on government property.
Muhammad was arrested on May 13, 2013, with 48 others protesting at the N.C. State Legislature against the anti-worker and racist laws that were being proposed and enacted as part of a national corporate-financed campaign to eliminate vital social programs and basic democratic rights that have been won by labor, the Black Freedom Movement (often referred to as the Civil Rights Movement) and other social movements over the past 100 or so years.
Muhammad, a founding member of Black Workers For Justice, led the organizing as an organizer of the national United Electrical Workers Union (UE) that formed the North Carolina Public Service Workers Union-UE Local 150, which has been a leader in the campaign to repeal the N.C. state ban on collective bargaining rights for public sector workers. That included getting a ruling from a complaint filed with the United Nations International Labor Organization (ILO) finding North Carolina and the U.S. out of compliance with international laws and treaties by its denial of public sector workers’ collective bargaining rights. Despite the ILO ruling, North Carolina and the U.S. have refused to comply with the U.N. agency ruling.
The North Carolina legislature is now pushing to enact its anti-labor, right-to-work law as an amendment to the N.C. State Constitution, banning the right to collective bargaining for public sector workers, which would prevent private sector workers from using card check in efforts to form unions. This right-wing push to deny labor rights as a constitutional provision raises the urgency of the need to build a powerful statewide, South-wide and national campaign for labor/workers rights to protest and organize.
Worker Speak-Outs were organized in several North Carolina cities by the Southern Workers Assembly, an initiative led by UE Local 150 that brought together rank-and-file workers and leaders to talk about the conditions facing workers on the job which are being shaped by the legislative climate. Many workers stated that the anti-worker climate is increasing management’s abuse of power against basic worker and labor rights on the job.
As active participants in the Moral Mondays Campaign, UE 150 and Black Workers For Justice, which are close allies, invited rank-and-file workers and leaders from other unions and worker organizations to be part of the first Moral Mondays labor rights delegation to protest against the attacks on labor and worker rights at the N.C. General Assembly.
As North Carolina is a target state for corporate-financed, right-wing movements and organizations like the Tea Party and the American Legislative Exchange Council for modeling anti-democratic legislation for other states throughout the country, and especially in the South where industries are relocating in large numbers. We believe that the state of North Carolina started with the Muhammad case to send a strong message that rank-and-file labor social movement activism demanding labor rights and other democratic rights will not be tolerated.
Dr. King’s last demonstration in Memphis, Tenn., in support of the right to collective bargaining for Sanitation workers, points out that when the right of workers to organize and mobilize power in movements and campaigns like Moral Mondays for civil, democratic and human rights for working-class and poor people, especially the most oppressed in the case of Black workers, workers of color and women, the courts, the anti-democratic forces in all levels of government, and the most extreme elements promoting racial hatred and divisions among the people will make every possible effort to defeat this converging movement of democratic people’s power.
Prohibiting the right to protest against the General Assembly is an attack on an international human right and the U.S. Constitutional Rights of Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Assembly and Freedom of Association to voice grievances against injustices and violations against all human rights carried out by the government and corporations. Exercising the right to protest was core to Black people, labor and other social movements winning voting, labor and other social and political rights. Muhammad’s case is part of the struggle for labor to mobilize its power to protest and shape public opinion and to defend against attacks on and to fight for the advancement of labor and all human rights. Muhammad’s appeal of the guilty ruling is a fight against criminalizing labor’s right to mobilize the rank and file in protest.
We feel that Muhammad’s case should be used to help build a national and international rank-and-file and human rights movement campaign in defense of the right of labor and social movements to actively protest against government and corporate attacks and denial of human rights. It is important for labor and rank-and-file workers to be in the forefront of this campaign, as it represents a fundamental aspect of mobilizing labor and peoples’ power to defend and fight for advances in democratic rights and radical changes that address the needs of the majority of the people, not just the corporations and the rich.
Sign online petitions and send letters to the N.C. governor, President Obama and the N.C. District Court demanding that the charges be dropped against Saladin Muhammad and all of the Moral Mondays arrestees.
- End the legislative attacks on labor and worker rights
- Apply the ruling of the ILO by repealing the ban on public sector collective bargaining.
- Carry out of the AFL-CIO 2013 national convention resolution to organize labor in the South.
- Set up union and community meetings for labor rights’ arrestees to speak and help spread the struggle.
- Wear yellow wristbands as an act of solidarity with the struggles for labor rights in North Carolina.
We call on unions, worker organizations and all organizations and networks committed to labor and human rights to sign on as endorsers of this Campaign to Drop the Charges against Saladin Muhammad and All Moral Mondays Campaign Arrestees and stop the criminalizing of the right to protest by sending contact information and resolutions that can be publicly posted on Southern Workers Assembly literature, websites, etc., to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In societies and systems where the majority of the people must work to earn a decent standard of living to support themselves, their families and communities, their engagement in protests to make changes that improve conditions of workers at all levels of society is a human right. In the Spirit of Moral Mondays and Its First Rank-and-File Labor Delegation: Forward Together, Not One Step Back!
You can download this SWA statement and distribute it at union meetings, workplaces and in your community.
North Carolina Fightback Conference unites workers
Raleigh, N.C. — Workers from across North Carolina joined together on Sept. 21 for a statewide Workers Fightback Conference hosted by the Southern Workers Assembly.
In the last few months, over 940 people were arrested in protests at the State Capitol and tens of thousands took to the streets as part of the Moral Monday movement. At the same time, the SWA was building a campaign to elevate the struggles for workers’ rights, including having many rank-and-file workers arrested in the civil disobedience actions.
Gathered for this important conference were members of the N.C. Public Service Workers Union-UE Local 150; the N.C. Association of Educators, the Farm Labor Organizing Committee of the AFL-CIO, the Carolina Workers Organizing Committee (which is helping fast-food workers organize), OUR Walmart of the United Food and Commercial Workers, the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees Local 322, as well as unorganized workers, the unemployed, youth, and community and faith leaders.
President Angaza Laughinghouse of UE Local 150 said there had been an intensified legislative assault on unions in the state this year: “The workers’ movement is currently at a critical juncture here in the ‘right-to-work’ for less state of North Carolina. This convening of rank-and-file union leaders, organizing workers and activists to share lessons and plan action, is a strategic response. Today’s Workers Fightback Conference is an important step to resist this ongoing war against workers.”
Laughinghouse added, “Today we must develop our broad campaign to oppose House Bill 6, which would put right-to-work, the ban on collective bargaining rights for public employees, and a ban on card check neutrality for union recognition into this state’s constitution.”
Conference participants discussed how workers’ democracy and power must be promoted as an essential tenet of a democratic society. This is especially important now, with the attacks on democracy driven by the economic crisis and the capitalist push for austerity given as a solution.
According to a conference document, “North Carolina workers and workers throughout the South, in addition to having the worst labor laws and anti-union climate in the country, are now undergoing further attacks on workers’ rights. N.C. is a testing ground for the introduction and passage of the most extreme right-wing and racist laws. Its open declaration of corporate control of state government was made clear by the governor’s appointment of multimillionaire Art Pope — who is the state’s single largest donor and a founding board member of the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity and Tea Party — in charge of the state’s budget as deputy budget director.
“The right-wing push to make right-to-work part of the N.C. Constitution must be described as a major attack on labor and worker rights. The passage of a referendum constitutionalizing right-to-work would be a serious political blow to the labor movement in N.C. and throughout the U.S., as it would be defined as a people’s mandate, siding with the right of the employers to exercise total power over workers.”
An opening panel of the conference focused on the struggle of workers to fight for family-supporting wages. The “Low Wages Have to Go!” panel featured Jessica Benton, a Millbrook Elementary School teacher and member of NCAE and Organize 2020; Terrance Kellon, a fast-food worker with Carolina Workers Organizing Committee; Meliton Hernandez, a 14-year farmworker with the Farm Labor Organizing Committee; and Larry Mackey, a utilities worker in the city of Charlotte and member of UE Local 150.
“Whether I have to go to jail, or whatever it takes, I am going to fight for fast-food workers to get a raise,” said Kellon, a Little Caesar’s employee. “We want to form our own union and come together with other unions.”
Workers in North Carolina have no majority sign-up or collective bargaining rights. The conference discussed how to build campaigns that elevate rights at work and also working conditions, using Workers Bill of Rights campaigns. Currently being utilized by state mental health workers and municipal workers in UE Local 150, such campaigns can be a major step forward in the process of building collaboration between groups in the labor movement.
In the closing section of the conference, participants adopted a six-month plan to develop local Workers Assemblies in Charlotte, Goldsboro and Durham, N.C., to bring workers in those areas together to discuss actions and local working conditions as part of a Workers Democracy Campaign.
Walmart Workers Flash Mob – Raleigh, NC
N.C. Statewide Workers Fightback Conference
Saturday Sept. 21, 2013
10:00am – 4:00pm
(Attend on your way home from
AFL-CIO convention in Wilmington)
Vital Link School
1214 E. Lenoir Street, Raleigh, NC**
(Corner of Rock Quarry Road)
** note updated address!
RSVP Today by emailing email@example.com
The Forward Together Campaign is building a powerful social movement bringing together the many struggles for social and economic justice, human rights, and people’s democracy throughout the state of North Carolina.
The Southern Workers Assembly hosted three (3) regional Worker Speak-out Forums across North Carolina – Granville/Vance/Warren Counties on June 8, Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill on June 15 and Greenville/Wilson/Goldsboro/Rocky Mount/Kinston on June 22 – that drew in many rank-n-file worker activists to help build links and unity and speak-out against cuts planned by the General Assembly.
With the rise of the corporate financed conservative and racist movements and organizations like the Tea Party, and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) as an infrastructure for corporate domination and the political rule of state governments, it became clear, that the mere lobbying of state legislators, and developing an electoral base that only acted during election periods, was not enough to mobilize the people’s power to effectively challenge corporate rule over government.
The Moral Monday’s initiative has become a new form of the sit-in movement, challenging corporate dominated, anti-democratic and closed government. Civil disobedience against this form of governance must spread like the sit-in movement that began in North Carolina in 1960. While a focus must be kept on state government, it must spread to the workplaces in the public and private sectors where worker rights as a major component of people’s democracy are denied.
As North Carolina has the lowest percentage of union members of all the states within the U.S., the Forward Together Campaign must call for un-unionized workers to begin a process of forming worker organizations and unions at their workplaces.
Fighting grievances and filing lawsuits alone will not be enough to effectively challenge and stop the attacks financed by Art Pope and other multi-millionaires.
In order to change the political climate in ways that strengthens the working class identity, consciousness and confidence in the fight-back against the attacks, labor unions and worker organizations must act together to help launch a movement to bring labor forward as a conscious and active force.
As representatives of the Southern Workers Assembly in NC, we are calling on rank-and-file workers in the various unions, worker organizations and union officials and organizers who identify with rank-and-file democracy and control, to join us in building a fight-back movement that includes a statewide NC Labor Fightback Conference .