Many of us took part in last Saturday’s marches, eventually praised by just about everyone, from the president on down. Here’s some food for thought from our national president and our partners at the Washington State Labor Council:
Excerpted from AFSCME President Lee Saunders’ blog
In the wake of the Jan. 21 Women’s Marches in Washington state, Washington DC and across America, AFSCME President Lee Saunders outlines the next-step challenges:
“The question is: Now what? After everyone has gotten back on the bus, how do we continue to apply pressure and generate heat? If these marches were nothing more than a one-off, then we have wasted an opportunity. With all the challenges facing our country, the progressive movement needs to build a sturdy and sustainable infrastructure from the bottom up, one that is capable of galvanizing people to take action locally. That’s when politicians in Washington — and in your state or community — take notice and respond.
“What does this mean exactly? It means greater involvement in schools, workplaces and civic groups. It means rallying neighbors, for example, to save a health clinic that could close because of budget cuts. It means building coalitions to protect children and seniors, to reduce inequality and expand opportunity. It also means organizing workers, helping them achieve greater bargaining power and growing the ranks of labor unions. This engagement can take many forms — local marches, like many also taking place in cities and states nationwide this weekend, are an important movement-building tool.
“Make sure when you go home that you talk to your family and neighbors and start building a groundswell. We need more than catharsis; we need community action.”
AFSCME is a partner with the Women’s March on Washington and HEAR OUR VOICE: Join the 10 Actions for the First 100 Days campaign: https://www.womensmarch.com/100
Excerpted from WSLC President Jeff Johnson’s blog post:
Millions of women, men and children marched on Saturday in the Women’s Marches held all over the country and they had a very different vision of America, our values, and our needs.
My wife Becki and daughter Danica marched in Seattle; my daughter Anya marched in Los Angeles; my sister Janis and my niece Jennifer marched in Washington, D.C.; and I marched in Olympia.
As a veteran of 50 years of expressing democracy in the streets, I believe that the Women’s Marches represent one of the finest moments in our country’s modern history. The marches were spiritually uplifting, healing, provocative, moving, inclusive and profound in the values and vision that they expressed for our country.
The values and vision included:
- Equal rights, equity, and opportunities for all whether we are immigrants, LGBTQ, black, brown or white, indigenous, students, seniors…
- A woman’s right to make decisions about her body and reproductive health decisions not the government.
- Need to strengthen the ACA because actual health care is a human right not an insurance policy.
- Expand our rights to vote, to join a union, to make decisions about what our communities look like.
- Protect our water, air, health and environment from the ravages of climate change.
- Pay Equity.
- Strengthen our public schools and public services.
- Reform our criminal justice system.
These and so many more issues were raised in the marches, but I believe that the primary message being sent over the weekend by millions was that we will not tolerate moving backward. That we will fight together to advance towards a country where we share the prosperity created by workers, where we build bridges not walls, and where racism is dealt with head on and not glossed over in an appeal to a “new national pride.”
As we in labor participate in helping to build this new movement, let’s keep as a central operating tenet: “An Injury to One is an Injury to All.”
And from WSLC Secretary-Treasurer Lynne Dodson’s blog:
In Seattle, the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, plus the M.L. King County Labor Council and UFCW 21, hosted a labor contingent at our offices to join into the Seattle Women’s march as it came down Jackson Ave. With 175,000 of my closest friends, we marched both in silence and making a joyful noise. Waving Union banners and handmade signs we marched. Mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, grandparents, women, men, trans, non-conforming, every race and religion marched for an alternative to the hate of the Trump administration. We marched toward a brighter, more hopeful future.
So, what next? Where do we go from here? In the Labor Movement, we know how to organize, and we know how to fight; and it isn’t difficult to find ways to engage at the national and local levels. It isn’t difficult, and it is essential. Here’s how we start…
First, get active in your union, get active in organizations that are fighting for our future. Call your congresspeople every day: 202-224-3121 will get you to your Representative or Senators. You can check out TheStand.org, and the websites of your favorite social justice organizations for the message. Women’s March organizers have set up a website for 10 actions in 100 days.
At the state level — the WSLC’s Shared Prosperity Agenda needs the voices of the people to pass. We’re fighting for union jobs and fair pay, for family leave, for worker’s compensation, for civil rights, social services, and public education. Sign up for a daily email from The Stand for the latest information and contact your state Senators and Representatives. Build your relationship with them — hold them accountable.
Locally — our best chance for progress is at the municipal level. Sanctuary cities and towns, fair labor practices, protection of workers’ rights. Know your local elected officials and help them push policies that protect our communities and build our economies. Support excellent candidates. Build alliances with your co-workers, your neighbors, your friends.
Run for office yourself. We need candidates with vision, heart, and spine at every level of government.
Do not be afraid to stand up, speak out, fight back. We may stumble, we may fail. But we will pick ourselves up and we will be resolute and determined. We will neither back down, nor will we give up.
Saturday’s march showed us that we are not alone, and the power of a collective vision, voice, and action will overcome.
As Audre Lorde said, “I am deliberate and afraid of nothing.”