Weather Updates

Thousands of pro-union supporters rally downtown for Wis. workers

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

Thousands of union workers crowded Daley Plaza on Saturday in a show of solidarity with workers in Wisconsin, where the governor signed a law ending collective bargaining rights.

Laborers, carpenters, electricians, machinists, sheet metal workers, police officers, firefighters, teachers, actors, writers and pharmacists from Illinois and surrounding states marched from corners of the Loop, waving pro-union banners and chanting “We are one.”

From the stage, organizers warned that workers in other states, including Illinois, could face union-busting legislation similar to the Wisconsin law and urged them to be prepared.

“We didn’t pick this fight. We didn’t start this fight,” USAction President William McNary said. “But if it’s a fight you want, it’s a fight you are going to get.”

Saturday’s rally had a civil rights theme, invoking the legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

“When Martin Luther King Jr. campaigned for the rights of the poor, I don’t think he envisioned politicians and business leaders setting the parameters for change,” said Jen Johnson, a history teacher at Lincoln Park High School. “I hope that Mayor-elect [Rahm] Emanuel will realize that the only way to ensure that our schools are excellent is to ask the professionals that work in them. . . . We deserve to have our voices heard.”

Civil rights activist and former union leader Bill Lucy called on members to band together to remove the “temporary governor of Wisconsin” and repeal the union-busting law he labeled a “certain brand of evil.”

“Brothers and sisters, I don’t know what ship you may have come over on, but we are in the same boat now,” Lucy said of the looming threat that other states might follow Wisconsin’s lead. “We will not give up. We will not give out. We will not give in.”

Wisconsin state Sen. Chris Larson, who spent 22 days in Chicago with fellow lawmakers to try to block a vote on the bill that killed collective bargaining rights , warned workers that those rights are at risk nationwide.

That’s why Chicago Ald. Joe Moore (49th) attended the rally.

“Listen, they’re doing it in Wisconsin now, and they’ll do it in Illinois next,” he said. “We have to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Wisconsin and be ready.”

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