February 26, 2018

More than 5,000 join Working People’s Day of Action in Chicago

Thousands rallied nationwide on Feb. 24 to unite for their freedom to form strong unions, honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the 50
th anniversary of the Memphis sanitation strike, and to demand an end to the rigged economic system perpetrated by Gov. Bruce Rauner and corporate special interests.

The Chicago rally was part of the nationwide Working People’s Day of Action, marking an unprecedented resurgence in grassroots efforts to realize the unfinished work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the sanitation workers who went on strike in Memphis 50 years ago. James Riley, a Memphis sanitation worker in 1968 who marched with Dr. King, was honored at the Chicago rally for his activism on behalf of working people.

“Our freedom is under attack. Governor Bruce Rauner and his wealthy CEO friends have been leading an all-out assault on working men and women for years,” said Illinois Working Together Co-Chair and Illinois AFL-CIO President Michael Carrigan. “Today we stand here to say to Governor Rauner that we will not stand idly by. Whether you’re in a union or not, working people are here to fight back. We are here to unrig the system."

"When teachers, nurses, first responders and other public service workers like the ones we heard from today are free to come together in strong unions, working people win," said Chicago Federation of Labor Secretary-Treasurer Bob Reiter. "We will never stop fighting for our families, our communities, and all working people. And we will never stop fighting to unrig the system that sends so much to so few at the very top."

Speakers at the rally included working men and women from across Illinois who are already suffering the consequences of the Rauner's failed leadership, including educators, fire fighters, public service workers, laborers, and nurses.

"Because I have a strong union and a seat at the table when policies are made, I have a direct voice in serving my community. I use my voice through my union to speak for kids and families that no one would otherwise hear from," said DCFS Child Protection Investigator Stephen Mittons of Chicago. "Working people are going to keep coming together. We’re sticking together. We’re using our voices and speaking up—for ourselves, for our families, and for our communities—and we will never quit!"

"I work hard and I deserve a livable wage. I deserve health care benefits and so does my son. I deserve a seat the table. And without a strong union, people like Bruce Rauner could take that away from me, and it would be hard to fight back alone," said Liz Villareal, an academic advisor at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago. "But I’m not alone. I have my union family, mi familia. An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us, and we won’t back down."

"The attacks on unions are fought under many different disguises. The truth is, our opponents are after money. Public education is the last great frontier for big corporations to make more money by taking over our public schools," said Springfield teacher Crysta Weitekamp. "We stand strong. We stand proud. We stand united."

"Freedom means providing basic public services, even when politicians like Bruce Rauner fight like hell to strip us of our right to negotiate not only a living wage, but also our right to a safe work environment and sufficient resources that provide for the public’s safety," said Galesburg firefighter Jeff Maher. "While Bruce Rauner and his radical right agenda continues to erode your families’ safety and security, my brothers and sisters will continue to save lives and property."

Emergency room nurse Paul Pater of Chicago said, "My union rights are under attack. Now not only are billionaires are attacking my right to a fair workplace, but they are undermining patient care as well. I am here to say today that we are not going to let them win. No matter what happens in the Supreme Court, nurses are standing with each other in our Union."

The rally was organized by Illinois Working Together, the Illinois AFL-CIO, the Chicago Federation of Labor, AFSCME Council 31, the Illinois Education Association, and the Illinois Federation of Teachers and was endorsed by the Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois, SEIU Healthcare Illinois & Indiana, UFCW Local 881, the Illinois Nurses Association, LiUNA Chicago Laborers District Council, Chicago Jobs with Justice, the Illinois Alliance for Retired Americans, Women Employed, ARISE Chicago, Citizen Action / Illinois, Our Revolution - Illinois, Indivisible Illinois, and Fight for $15.

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