Yesterday, in 60 cities across the nation—including every capital city—thousands of Americans rallied to show their support for unions, teachers, public workers, the people of Wisconsin, and the American dream.
Even on a weekday, the rallies drew tens of thousands of people. I attended the Denver Defend the Dream rally, held downtown at fire station #1, where a crowd of around 300 made one message very clear: working people are fed up with attacks on the middle-class.
Nearly half of the crowd showed up wearing red and white to show solidarity with Wisconsin public workers, and the mere mention of Wisconsin’s Governor, Scott Walker, was met with a loud chorus of boos. Corporate America and billionaire CEOs were not popular either. While addressing the crowd about corporate greed, one speaker said, “Corporations want to privatize the profits and socialize the damage.”
The support for unions was large among the crowd, with members of the SEIU, IBW, Teamsters, and teachers’ unions in attendance. The cry of “Without unions, there is no middle class,” was met with booming cheers.
The closing message was that we need to “re-union!” The idea being that we, as workers, have largely forgotten what unions have done for all of us. Union members of the early 1900s struggled to bring rights to all workers. Many were even murdered in the process. We were reminded of the 1914 Ludlow Massacre, which took place in Ludlow, Colorado, about 30 miles from the New Mexico border.
Ludlow was a tent colony of coal miners and their families and was owned by the coal companies. On April 20, 1914, nineteen people were killed—including three union leaders, two striking coal miners, a child, and a passerby—in clashes between striking miners and the Colorado National Guard, who was brought in by the coal companies. The workers at Ludlow simply wanted a better wage and safer working conditions. In 1913 alone, 104 people died in Colorado’s mines.
These kinds of battles were ubiquitous throughout the 1900′s, and union members continued to fight for rights for workers for more than half of the Twentieth Century. Weekends. Forty hour work weeks. Paid overtime. An end to child labor. All of these things were given to today’s worker by union members of the past.
What I took away most from the Defend the Dream rally was the idea that it is indeed time to re-union! We are all in this together. We are one! It’s all too easy to take for granted the good working conditions and fair wages we have today, but we shouldn’t wait till our rights as workers are taken from us to appreciate them. Let’s appreciate them now, and let lawmakers who threaten those rights know we’re not going to give them up.