Recap: Collective Bargaining Lobby Day

As struggle continues, “Stay on the wall”

On Tuesday, June 15, 2010, supporters of public employees rallied outside the North Carolina General Assembly before lobbying lawmakers to repeal the ban on collective bargaining by public employees – GS95-98 – a Jim Crow law passed in 1959 that’s still on the books.

The event was organized by the North Carolina Hear Our Public Employees (HOPE) Coalition. About 200 trade unionists, community, and civil rights activists traveled to our state’s capital to press for repeal of the law that makes North Carolina one of only two states to forbid public employees from engaging in what is an internationally recognized right to bargain with your employer.

The day-long event began with an orientation session at the State Archives building, where NC State AFL-CIO President, James Andrews, urged supporters of HOPE to not give up this fight for freedom:

“The message is to you – and it’s a biblical term some of you folks know – ‘Stay on the wall. Don’t get off the wall’ – because I am convinced that the right of public workers in this state to gain collective bargaining will happen in North Carolina.” Watch the video:

Speaking truth to power in a powerful way

After orientation, HOPE supporters converged on the Mall across from the Legislative Building where the General Assembly meets to speak out for the rights of workers. There they heard several powerful messages, beginning with a speech by NC NAACP President, Rev. William Barber. Here are a few highlights from his remarks:

“The Civil Rights Movement and the Labor Movement are two movements headed in the same direction, and we will always be joined together.”

“Environmentalists and civil rights people and labor folk and folks who care about education come to those positions from the same basic moral framework: that we must have a society that works for everybody and especially those on the margins and those who do the hardest work.”

“This law [G.S. 95-98] is a Jim Crow law, one of the last active Jim Crow laws, and it needs to be repealed from our state law.”

“People talk about the dignity of work, but work alone is not dignified. Slavery was a form of work, but there was no dignity in that. […] Work is only dignified when workers are protected, when there’s a living wage, when there’s safety, when there’s collective bargaining, when there’s labor rights.”

Watch Rev. Barber’s speech to at Lobby for HOPE rally: Part 1, 2, 3, and 4.

Ed Duffield is a firefighter of 24-years in Winston-Salem, NC. “I’m here to talk about having a seat at the table.” Firefighters’ number one priority is protecting the safety of the public and their members. They want the ability to talk about workplace issues “intelligently” with their employers, “and with collective bargaining, we’ll have the opportunity to do that.” Watch the video:

“Without the progress of women, there can be and will be no progress,” said Michelle Cotton Laws, a community activist, president of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP, and Indy Weekly’s 2009 Person of the Year. Women make up 47% of the state workforce and 91% of teachers. In refusing to give these women a seat at the table, Michelle said, lawmakers “are talking about dismantling the strength of our families and communities.”

“We’re hear to say to the members of the General Assembly and the cabinet, ‘If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside-down, all alone, you ought to let us back at the table to collectively bargain and turn it right-side-up.” Watch the video:

We’ll have more to add to our collection of videos and pictures from Lobby for HOPE 2010 in the coming days, but you can watch these and more at our YouTube channel:

UPDATE: Press Clips from Lobby Day

Thanks to HOPE staff person, Chelsea Earles, for compiling this list of press clips from the June 15 Lobby Day: