We are all Wisconsinites!
An estimated 1,000 labor activists, including hundreds of MTA members, crowded Beacon Hill for a sunset rally February 22 in support of Wisconsin workers, who are facing down a threat to their collective bargaining rights. Hundreds more packed the area surrounding Springfield City Hall.
"We are here because we believe that public employees should have a voice in their profession," MTA President Paul Toner said as he addressed the Boston crowd of union members that included educators, social workers, nurses, tradespeople and other professionals, public and private. "We are here because we believe that all workers should have a say in their future."
"We don't need to attack public sector workers to make change," said Governor Deval Patrick, one of the last speakers to take the podium in Boston. "We are all in this together."
Representing her fellow educators, MTA board member Elizabeth Shevlin said, "Collective bargaining protects our students now and in the future. Collective bargaining gives teachers a voice in how our schools run on a day to day basis to improve our schools and classrooms. Collective bargaining keeps class sizes low – promising every student the attention he or she deserves from a qualified teacher."
The Boston rally was also addressed by Massachusetts Congressmen Edward Markey, Michael Capuano, and Stephen Lynch. Markey, referring to a small counter rally of Tea Party members near the State House said: "We just had in Washington a huge battle last week which resulted in the Tea Party take over of the United States House of Representatives cutting education...cutting out our future. ...In Wisconsin what we're seeing is an attempt by the Tea Party to take over an entire state. The Tea Party is across the street protesting this rally. The Tea Party is defending the billionaires. The unions are defending the workers."
Capuano declared, "Today, I am a Cheesehead!"
Lynch made note of the original Boston Tea Party, "The colonists threw the tea overboard. The colonists didn't throw teachers overboard. The colonists didn’t throw the senior citizens overboard. The colonists didn’t throw kids overboard on Head Start." Many other union officers and members and some state legislators also expressed their support for the Wisconsin workers.
Marc Lewis, president of the Acton-Boxborough Education Association, carried a placard decorated with the University of Wisconsin badger mascot and the slogan, "Not on the backs of Wisconsin Workers."
"Some of my favorite people in the whole world are public employees in Wisconsin," said the 1994 UW Madison graduate. "So if I couldn't be in Madison, I'm glad to be in Boston to let them know we'll be with them all the way."
Meanwhile, across the Commonwealth, MTA was well represented at the Springfield rally.
"This is not the time to overturn collective bargaining," Will Rice of the Agawam Teachers Association said at the Springfield rally. "We support all workers and are very proud of our brothers and sisters in Wisconsin for standing up to this regressive assault on all workers."
Additional photos, videos and coverage of the Boston and Springfield rallies will be published on this website, our Facebook page, and in the April/May issue of MTA Today.
Rally Photos on Flickr
Video of Springfield Rally
Remarks from MTA President Paul Toner
Thank you all for coming out here today. I am proud to stand with my fellow labor leaders, union members, friends and supporters to show our support for the working men and women of Wisconsin.
We are here because we believe that public employees should have a voice in their profession.
We are here because we believe that all workers should have a say in their future.
We are here because we oppose the strong-arm, anti-union, anti-worker, anti-educator, anti-social worker, anti-parks employee, anti-EMT, anti-trash collector, anti-senior advocate, anti-youth worker actions of Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin.
Don’t let Governor Walker fool you. This is not about public employee pay and benefits in Wisconsin. The public employees there have already said they are willing to take significant cuts in their benefits to help balance the budget. Walker won’t take “yes” for an answer because he has another agenda. His agenda is to smash the unions and permanently shift the balance of power away from workers and onto management and the corner office – his office.
To this we say take a walk Governor Walker. This has nothing to do with helping the economy in Wisconsin. If it did, why would Governor Walker be pointing a dagger at the heart of the economy? Because we all know that economies suffer when public services suffer. Strong economies need educated workers, safe roads and bridges, working street lights, effective fire protection, clean, drinkable water, good public transportation, healthy residents – and so many other benefits brought to you by public employees.
In Massachusetts, we are fortunate to have a strong collective bargaining law and elected leaders who respect our rights under that law. We do not face the same kind of attacks that public employees are facing in Wisconsin and in other states. But our voices must be heard throughout the nation. We are here to show our support for those who are under attack because an attack on workers in one place can quickly turn into an attack on workers everywhere.
Today, we are all Wisconsinites! Thank you!