California State University East Bay

The Pioneer

California State University East Bay

The Pioneer

California State University East Bay

The Pioneer

Filler ad

Unions Rally in Oakland to Protest Economic Situation

Protesters march peacefully toward the Frank Ogawa Plaza in Oakland.

Chanting “We are One,” hundreds of activists and supporters marched to Oakland City Hall on July 22, protesting in solidarity economic conditions they say are personal attacks on workers and labor union rights nationwide.

In response to the present debt crisis, the demonstrations–sponsored by a broad coalition of organizations–was held to protest the Republican-led efforts in Wisconsin and Ohio to curb bargaining for public employees, building on the efforts in those states to fight for a “fair” economy.

Their main objective, several union organizers say, is to protest federal and state budget cuts that are directly hurting the most vulnerable Americans, the working class.

“Only the rich are getting educated,” said Paul James, a plumber from Moraga with Local 159. “While my daughter’s tuition is going up alarmingly at Sacramento State and my job is going overseas, it’s us, working class Americans being hurt here. Today we’re showing them we won’t have any of that.”

The rally was intended as a show of support for not only union workers and labor unions for workers’ rights, but as an overall show of discontent with the current economic situation that also effects education, health and public services.

Asserted by many as a fundamental issue for workers’ and labor rights, the issue of collective bargaining in states, such as Wisconsin, has brought to the forefront many of the various patterns of mistakes Washington has made, while they say they are left to deal with the consequences.

“It’s just not ok, what they are doing to our kids and our jobs are simply not ok,” said Kathy McRoberts who has been with Local 1 for 18 years. “I’m here to bring more awareness that labor is being disenfranchised and in the end they are not just hurting us, but our nation as a whole.”

Demonstrators met Friday morning for a 2-hour demonstration of diverse speeches and picketing, exemplifying how the issue crosses race, age and demographic barriers.

Chief speakers included Mayor of Oakland Jean Quan, Department of Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis, the national American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) secretary-treasurer Liz Shuler and Stephanie Bloomingdale, the secretary-treasurer for Wisconsin’s AFL-CIO, all reminding union workers that unions are “a basic human right.”

Colleen Fong, CSU East Bay professor of Ethnic Studies and a member of the California Faculty Association (CFA) and Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, (APALA) said this issue heavily affects people of color especially in the Bay Area.

“Workers need to know they have rights,” said Fong. “It’s important that people of color utilize their voice to fight back because they have just as much of a stake in this country as anyone else, and we’re here today to show that.”

Tom Lawson of Martinez came to the protest with fellow members of his union, proudly wearing his “We are One” shirt, a picket sign in his left hand and an American flag in his right.

“Education has been going downhill in this country since the 60s,” he said.  “As people become less educated they are not taught to make informed decisions.  That’s why we are in this situation right now, because people are sheep, they follow propaganda easily and now we’re in this mess and people like me are suffering because of it.”

Rebecca Asami, a CSU Fresno student studying Geology believes that if anything, a march such as the “We are One” rally will bring people together to at least start talking about this issue, and hopefully find ways to implement change and reform on their own terms.
Growing up in Fresno, Asami saw the struggles undocumented field workers dealt with–many times working through inhumane conditions simply to feed their families and themselves.

“We’re all in this together, regardless of where we come from or look like, it affects us all,” said Asami. “Unions are so important because they work on behalf of people’s rights and needs, and that is in danger right now, but we must stand together to prevent that from occurring.”

Following the rally, large groups of union workers, teamsters and supporters dispersed carrying their signs, rolling up their banners and leaving the rally to head back to work, but many say their time there was well spent and will send out a powerful message to their community.

“I came today because I won’t allow my rights to be ignored,” said Reyna Padilla of Oakland. “Maybe this won’t actually change anything and maybe nothing immediate will happen, but experiencing the fact that so many of us came today, exercising our right as Americans to have a say in our political process is always worth my time.”

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Pioneer Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Activate Search
California State University East Bay
Unions Rally in Oakland to Protest Economic Situation