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More than 10,000 proclaim: “WE ARE ONE!”

Historic rally urges State Legislature to “Put People First!”

A week of successful “We Are One” events across Washington state culminated April 8 in Olympia’s largest labor rally in a decade as more than 10,000 union members and their supporters rallied at the State Capitol to urge state legislators to “Put People First” to stop the attacks on working people and their unions, to demand that powerful corporations share in the sacrifice of addressing the state’s $5 billion revenue shortfall, and to refocus on creating good jobs.

The rally and the other events last week — which included actions in Blaine (see video), in Seattle (see video), a Capitol Campout and a state budget protest that resulted in arrests — were in response to attacks against the right to collective bargaining in Washington and across the nation and budget proposals that maintain billions of dollars in corporate tax preferences while slashing public services and the jobs of people who provide them.

“We do not have a budget deficit,” said Jeff Johnson, President of the Washington State Labor Council. “We have a social services deficit, we have a jobs deficit, we have a revenue deficit, and we have a deficit of leadership.”

Speaker after speaker reminded Washington’s lawmakers that working people in both the public and private sectors have sacrificed enough because of this recession caused by the greed and malfeasance of Wall Street. While corporate profits have returned to record levels, unemployment remains high and workers who have already taken wage and benefit cuts are being asked to make even more sacrifices. Meanwhile, Republicans across the nation are seeking to blame the struggling economy on unions — specifically those that represent teachers, nurses, firefighters, prison workers and other public employees.

Hence the rally cry that “We Are One” and we will not be divided by such tactics, and we will demand that the lawmakers in this state “Put People First!”

One of the special guest speakers at Friday’s rally was Wisconsin State Sen. Spencer Hawes, one of the “Wisconsin 14,” a group of Democrats who fled the Capitol in Madison to deny Republicans the quorum necessary to take away bargaining rights for state employees in that state. Hawes spoke of the pride and inspiration he felt as he watched their struggle for justice earn nationwide, and then international, support.

“It went worldwide,” he said. “I saw on the Internet an Egyptian lad who was protesting Hosni Mubarek, he had a sign that said ‘We’re supporting Wisconsin, too.’ Just like you.”

In addition to discussing the need for corporations to share in the sacrifice as lawmakers address Washington state’s budget challenge, several speakers discussed business-led attacks on our state’s safety net for injured workers.

They urged everyone at the rally to find their legislators and urge their opposition to “compromise-and-release” lump-sum workers’ compensation settlements — also known as “starve and settle” — which allow employers to pay injured workers in desperate circumstances far less than what they would otherwise get.

The Teamsters had a truck set up at the rally for people to make calls and send emails to their legislators on this important issue. (If you haven’t done so, click here to email your legislators.)

CHECK OUT THE UNION DIFFERENCE in Washington: higher wages, affordable health and dental care, job and retirement security.

FIND OUT HOW TO JOIN TOGETHER with your co-workers to negotiate for better wages, benefits, and a voice at work. Or go ahead and contact a union organizer today!