On March 26, over 20,000 workers shut down downtown Los Angeles for a mass march and rally in solidarity with workers of Wisconsin and to protect the rights of union workers, especially the public service sector, in California.
The march, comprised primarily of union workers and organizers, was multinational and included non-union workers, students and the unemployed. Port workers, transportation workers, health care workers, teachers, public service sector workers, grocery workers, construction workers, film industry workers, and many more marched united in the demonstration organized by Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.
The Party for Socialism and Liberation participated in the march along with allies in the ANSWER Coalition in the “Jobs, Not War” contingent, leading chants like, “From Wisconsin to LA—tax the rich, make them pay!” and “Money for jobs and education—not for banks and corporations!”
PSL member Ian Thompson agitated against the war on working people, saying “It is us that make all of the wealth of society. Teachers, construction workers, port workers, healthcare workers and all workers make society run—not the Wall Street bankers and the fat cats in corporations. All that they have done is create this economic crisis and now they are trying to make us bear the burden of it. We say no more war on working people.”
Thousands of UTLA members marched alongside thousands of students from LAUSD who are uniting in solidarity with their teachers to defend their rights. UTLA is facing up to 5,000 teacher layoffs this year alone and a mounting assault from the school privatization movement. One teacher at Los Angeles Elementary School, Sarah Patterson, told Liberation News, “I'm a teacher and I think what is happening in Wisconsin is incredible. We need collective bargaining. It isn't just about wages we need to be able to fight for better working conditions and we can't do this without a union. The union is how we as teachers can have a voice.”
Union workers spoke not only about the need to defend collective bargaining rights of union workers, but also the importance of extending these rights to all workers. Anthony Fabrizio, a grocery worker from UFCW local 770, told Liberation News, “There are millions of people who don't have jobs and don't have a union and I'm here fighting for them and fighting for the right to organize.” Under socialism the extension of the right to organize a union would be an immediate gain made for the working class and this is a part of the PSL’s fighting program.
Jeannette Ordun, an organizer for the construction workers’ union LiUNA local 777, told Liberation News that she was there to, “support working class families in their fight for fair wages and benefits.” This has been a particularly hot button issue in California where governor Jerry Brown has jumped on the bandwagon of austerity and upped the attacks on public workers’ pensions.
Julia Wells, a worker with AFSCME local 800, told Liberation, “We are here to vote with our feet. We need to let the fat cats know that we won’t take it anymore. We are here to fight back.”
The high degree of working class consciousness among rank-and-file union members pushed some to travel great distances in support of Los Angeles workers. Jason Lundquist of ILWU local 21 in Longview, Washington traveled down to participate. He told Liberation, “Were bringing the fight where it is. It is time for all of us workers to activate and organize to fight.”
One protestor named Morell Grant from SEII, a section of SEIU in Illinois, who had been on the ground in Wisconsin told Liberation, “I'm protesting against the banks that broke the economy. Working people didn't cause this mess and we shouldn't be the ones to clean it up. I'm fighting for a fair economy.”
Grant captured the sentiment of thousands who chanted loudly, “Unions yes, Wall Street no—greedy banks have got to go!” The fact that trillions of tax dollars paid by the workers is spent on bailing out the richest and smallest handful of bankers, who subsequently spend the money to destroy unions rather than make jobs, is the clearest evidence needed to push workers to action. Only under capitalism, where the wealth made socially by workers is controlled privately by the owners, do workers face such glaring contradictions.
The ending rally included speeches from labor leaders throughout the Southern California area, clergy, and other community leaders. Performances by pro-union artists like Tom Morello and Ozomatli entertained the crowd of thousands.
In all, the demonstration proved that workers will fight back because they must and that when we fight as workers we are able to overcome the social divisions pushed upon us by the ruling capitalist class.
The labor movement has been jostled awake by an attack on their very existence but a united, fighting working-class movement has the power to wrest from the hands of the bosses any victory demanded. The demonstration of tens of thousands of workers in Los Angeles, inspired by the fight in the Midwest, is exactly what strikes fear in the heart of capitalist owners. The struggle of workers anywhere must be complemented by a workers offensive everywhere. Workers unite and fight!