PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Hundreds of union supporters rallied today in downtown Pittsburgh in a show of solidarity with public employees in Wisconsin.
It’s part of a national effort by organized labor to focus attention on what they call “union-busting.”
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has stirred a strong and passionate reaction among local labor members.
While public employee unions in Wisconsin have already agreed to cuts in benefits, Walker wants to limit their ability to negotiate future pay and benefits. That, says union members, strikes at the heart of collective bargaining and will not stand.
Perhaps 500 workers and supporters from most of Pittsburgh’s labor movement turned out on short notice for this afternoon’s rally.
”We need to fight to make sure that they don’t rob any worker of their rights to collective bargaining, or their rights to be in a union,” said Leo Girard, of the United Steelworkers of America.
“This is about the middle class. We’re standing up and fighting; they’re trying to run over workers in Wisconsin, in Ohio, in Indiana, New Hampshire, across the map,” said Tim Waters, also of the United Steel Workers of America. “We’re here today, no one here is going to Wisconsin, we’re making our voice heard right here in Pittsburgh.”
Organized by the United Steelworkers of America at their headquarters lobby, local union leaders say Gov. Walker will not prevail in stripping public employee unions of their bargaining rights.
“It’s not going to happen. They’re not going to get away with it,” said Jack Shea, of the Allegheny County Labor Council. “We’re going to stand, we’re not going to give up and this is just the beginning.”
Speakers like the syndicated radio host Texas Jim Hightower, a Texas populist, says middle class America is waking up to corporate greed that is hurting workers everywhere.
“We’ve been letting the corporate supremacists outhustle us,” said Hightower. “We’ve been progressive and that is good, but it’s no longer enough. We’ve got to become aggressive again.”
It was a theme picked up by many public employees like Pittsburgh firefighter Darrin Kelly.
“Mr. CEO, how dare you. How dare you use our backs for generation after generation as your stepping stone to the American dream, but yet criticize me when I go for mine,” said Kelly while at the rally.
One teacher compared the unleashing of working America to the revolution in Egypt.
“People are showing us that we’re not just going to be rolled over,” said Kipp Dawson, of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers. “That’s what democracy looks like. This is what democracy looks like.”