On April 4, more than 350 Fresno residents, union members and supporters marched to express their opposition to attacks on basic rights such as those occurring in Wisconsin and several other states. Here are excerpts from a few of the dramatic and thought-provoking statements that were made that day.
Randy Ghan, secretary-treasurer of the Central Labor Council:
“In a thousand different places, people are standing up and saying ‘We are one!’ We are one with the workers in Wisconsin. We are one with the workers in Ohio, in Pennsylvania, in Florida and Indiana, and everywhere else where those governments think that workers shouldn’t be respected. When they want to take away the rights for workers to collectively bargain, that’s a sign of disrespect my friends, and we are not going to stand for it. We are here to stand up and say the middle class is about people working. The workers need to be respected in their work. They deserve to be respected in their work.”
Bishop Hall, Glory Bound World Outreach:
“The African American sanitation workers were demanding their dream: the right to bargain collectively, for a voice at work for a better life. The workers were tired; they were trying to form a union with the African American Federation of State, County and Municipal employees. That’s where the thought came, ‘I Am a Man.’
“These men who were sanitation workers had a dream. They had a dream that one day they would be working alongside their co-workers as equals, doing the same work for the same pay. That’s what we are asking for today; that we stand, side by side, shoulder to shoulder, man and woman, making a difference. Because this is a time, if we don’t do it now, there is going to be trouble down the road for our children and our children’s children. So today, we stand together as one.”
Oliver Baines, Fresno City Council Member District 3:
“I do want to speak on this topic and give a little bit of a personal perspective, as a man who was brought up in a family that was represented by a bargaining unit. My father for 33 years worked for the United Auto Workers, and my grandfather for 40 years also worked for the United Auto Workers. For 12 years, I was also part of the Fresno Police Officers Association.
“So if you listen to the media and you listen to the other side of this argument, you would think that everybody that’s a union worker has a job forever and is guaranteed a job forever, and that’s a lie. Let me tell you about me and my experience in the Fresno Police Department where I lost over 200 people that I worked with, all represented by bargaining units. That’s a lie: People that are in unions can be fired. We don’t have jobs forever. We’re not getting rich on pensions. What we do require is that when we work there is dignity in our job, that we are assured healthcare, that we are assured when we retire we can retire in dignity.
“As the banks are fully recovered, workers are still fighting for dignity. There’s a problem with that right now.
“As I have seen it, you have come to the table. You have been a part of the solution, and I applaud you in these efforts. And so what I think is that we as a nation, we as a world, we do need to have a frank conversation about what our fiscal responsibilities are. But this conversation needs to be had fairly.
“We are one people. We are one nation. We are one world. What happens to one affects us all. We are one. Thank you.”