Don’t Drink the Tea. Think With the WE.

7,000 Attend Workers Rising Rally in WV; Legislative Session Ends Saturday



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Last weekend, thousands of West Virginia workers gathered at the state capitol in Charleston for the Mountaineer Workers Rising rally to protest the agenda of the state’s GOP.  Since taking power in January, Republicans have pushed for several pieces of anti-worker legislation, including prevailing wage repeal, increased funding for charter schools, “Right-to-Work,” and rollbacks of mine safety rules. An estimated 7,000 people attended the rally.

Addressing the crowd, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka blasted the anti-worker agenda:

For nearly 60 days, they’ve conspired with their big owners and their big donors and out-of-state corporations to lower your wages and to take your benefits.  Richest nation on earth, at its most rich point in time and we can’t figure out how to pay people decent wages.”

Members of the United Mine Workers, United Food and Commercial Workers, School Service Personnel Association, Service Employees International, United Steelworkers, American Federation of Government Employees, LiUNA!, and the Teamsters were in attendance.  People spoke at length about the influence of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) on the Republican party and how the secretive special interest group pushes “model” legislation (bills that are more or less written for politicians).  Stan Johnson, Secretary-treasurer of the United Steelworkers, told the crowd, “Instead of working for workers, they’re just passing along ALEC-proposed legislation.  A lot of the legislation doesn’t even look like it belongs in West Virginia.”

Cecil Roberts, President of the UMWA, was one of the more fiery speakers.  He closed out the rally, pacing the stage and roaring into the microphone. At one point he called for an insurrection:

“What I propose starting this moment, in this place, right here in West Virginia–all of these attacks across this nation on everybody that works for a living–I say, let’s start it right now, right here, let’s have, starting today, the biggest unarmed insurrection in this nation’s history.”

He was poetic, too.

“There’s no daylight between any union in this state,” he told the ralliers. “We stand together, we fight together.”

Many of the speakers focused on the need for union members to get out the vote.  Voter registration cards we handed out and attendees were asked to mobilize their communities.  Roberts lashed out at union members for failing to vote in the last election. ”What is a disgrace is all we had to do is go to the polls and vote,” he said.

The current legislative session in West Virginia ends Saturday at midnight.  Protesters and organizers hope the rally will be a sign to legislators that their agenda is increasingly unpopular.

Photos from the rally can be viewed via WV Press.


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