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Friday Labor Rally in Oly Tops 10,000

And now we get it. We should not be accepting service cuts to a budget that is weighed down by big business subsidies and tax loopholes for the rich. We should not be silent about a federal budget that gives no assistance to the states but does spend trillions on bombing other countries and subsidizing companies like GE, BP and Boeing. This is madness and we must stop it!

On Friday, 10-12 thousand workers and their families gathered at the Capitol building in Olympia, WA to protest budget cuts that have been aimed directly at workers. I wasn’t able to make it down but I had the chance to speak to another Sisters Organize for Survival (SOS) member, Cee Fisher, who was in Olympia for the rallies on Thursday and Friday.

The day was organized by the Washington State Labor Council (WSLC) and multiple other grassroots organizations. At the beginning of this year, SOS gathered thousands of petitions urging labor leaders to organize one big united rally on President’s Day to save basic services and tax the rich. While it didn’t happen then, it did happen today. The thousands of people in the crowd showed off for one of the first times the diversity of workers who, when united, can stand together to fight against budget cuts that hurt every worker.

The rally began at 10:30 a.m. and kept strong through 1:30 p.m. Chanting “We are one” and “Corporate greed has got to go”, the crowd kept up the determined and driven atmosphere of protests earlier this week. Cee told me that the biggest difference between the rally on Thursday and Friday’s rally was the number of people. “It was huge and really powerful,” she reported. “When there was chanting, it echoed.”

She also found the crowd to be surprisingly open to new, even socialist, ideas to the current economic crisis. After years of witnessing Democrats and Republicans serving the interests of corporate profit, people seemed more aware than before of the need for elected officials who represent the working class. If you’re interested in learning more about these ideas, check out the Freedom Socialist newspaper at http://www.socialism.com/drupal-6.8/?q=node%2F30. A 1-year subscription only costs ten bucks. Sweet.

One of the highlights of the day was a speech by Terri Mast from the Inland Boatmen’s Union (IBU). Mast made a strong connection between what Republicans were doing to workers in Wisconsin and what Democrats were doing to us in Washington. Her point was weakened later by a speech from Spencer Coggs, a Democratic senator from Wisconsin. While Wisconsin’s workers have excited workers across the country, it is sad to see all that energy being channeled into a campaign to recall Republicans and replace them with Democrats. If there’s anything I know from Washington state that I could teach Wisconsin workers it’s that having a majority-Democrat legislature doesn’t save you from politicians trying to balance the budget on the backs of workers. Instead of hyping up the Democratic party, I wish Coggs would have yelled at Washington’s Democrats to stand up for their constituents and fight back. If we’re already represented by Dems, who are WE suppose to recall?

Throughout the day, anti-corporate sentiment ran strong. Some protesters were set to warn businesses with signs like “Screw us and we won’t apply” and “Stop the War on Workers”. Everywhere, union affiliates who came were proud to sport their union gear. Union t-shirts, buttons and hats let passer-byes and cameras know that these workers were organized. Firemen joined other professionals who wore their union representation proudly while dressed in uniform.

 

I believe the day, and the week, ended with a strong message to the state legislature. If last November’s election sent the message “Quit taxing workers”, this week’s message was clearly “Don’t cut our services” and “tax the wealth already”. The response I heard from Democrats was weakly “but we can’t”. My reply would be “You can and you must.” If the legislature really doesn’t have the votes to pass a budget without service cuts, I want to see the governor at least TRY by putting it to the people for a vote. And I’m not talking about raising revenue by increasing sales taxes on children’s candy. I want to see referendums on taxing the banks and corporations and closing tax loopholes for private jets and plastic surgery.

Are you with me on that? This post ends this week of blogs and reports, but I’ll be posting one final blog on Monday the 11th that recaps and reviews this entire week. I’ll also post an update on the budget as well as plenty of links of how you can keep the fight going. I’m planning on having ways to contact the legislature as well as info on SOS meetings. Let me know if there are other actions you’d like to have shared.

[– Larry Neilson; re-posted from Kevin Hatch of Radical Women.]


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