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Black History Month: The #MoralMonday Movement and the Legacy of Selma

 

UFCW Local 1208 in attendance of the most recent Moral March, via NC State AFL-CIO https://www.facebook.com/ncstateaflcio

UFCW Local 1208 in attendance at the most recent Moral March; photo via NC State AFL-CIO https://www.facebook.com/ncstateaflcio

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the historic civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. A diverse group of marchers walked to demand that the state of Alabama uphold the 15th Amendment to the Constitution, which granted the right to vote to African Americans.

In recent years, after regressive policies reminicent of laws that spawned the civil rights movement of the 1960’s were passed in the state of North Carolina, concerned citizens and community members mobilized to fight back—and Moral Mondays were born.

Fed up with state lawmakers that consistently tried to undermine the economic mobility of poor and working people, and who cut the Earned Income Tax credit which cut unemployment benefits, and blocked access to healthcare for thousands of North Carolinians, the mass movement now called Moral Mondays involves a diverse group of people and organizations who gather in weekly demonstrations at the state Capitol. They come to defend the rights of all people—to stop the discriminatory creation of barriers to the ballot, protect funding for education and Medicaid, jumpstart stagnant wages, and continue the fight for racial justice. These non-violent protestors continue the tradition of direct action and civil disobedience that activists like Dr. Martin Luther King stood so strongly for in the 60s, and they continually face arrest and jail time.

One such Moral Monday event last year brought together a coalition of over 160 organizations and thousands of people in what was the largest protest gathering in the South since the Selma march. Since then, the movement has spread to other cities in the state and across the country.

In North Carolina, the activists have seen victories as a result of their collective action. There’s been a pay increase for public school teachers. A judge ruled in the people’s favor by blocking an unconstitutional school voucher program. Some state officials, including Gov. Pat McCrory, are backpedaling from their hardline stance against Medicaid expansion. And Raleigh’s District Attorney dismissed the charges against 941 protesters who were arrested for their acts of civil disobedience inside the General Assembly last year. But there is a long way to go. Republican lawmakers are still trying to pass laws that end up hurting the sick, the poor, and minorities.

Most recently, a Moral March for Love and Justice was held in Raleigh on Valentine’s Day. The march was attended by veteran moral marchers like the Reverend William Barber, an inspiring speaker and driving force behind the movement. UFCW Local 1208 members were also in attendance.

Over the past week, we have seen how collective action can really pay off. On Friday, our UFCW International President Marc Perrone made a public statement following the news from Walmart that it would be raising its wage floor: “This is not an act of corporate benevolence. It would not have been possible without the courage of countless workers who are standing together, taking risks, and demanding wages and schedules that can support their families. Walmart is responding directly to calls from workers and their allies to pay a living wage.”

AFL-CIO Communications Director Eric Hauser also released a statement that said, “In the past 24 hours, Walmart workers got a raise, IBEW and CWA workers settled their strike with FairPoint, and United Steelworkers made safety at oil refinery plants a national issue. One 24 hour period shows how much progress can be made when workers come together to speak with one voice.”

It takes bravery, dedication, and resilience to stand up to those who try to assert unjust power over us, but the likes of Walmart workers who won a wage increase this week, community supporters who helped make it happen, and civil rights activists from the 1960s to today show us time and time again that when we stand together, we are powerful.

This video clip provided by NC Policy Watch provides a glimpse into the many causes people turned out to fight for on the February 14th Moral March in Raleigh, N.C.

UFCW OUTreach Hear from LGBT Leaders During Executive Board Meeting

outreach-300x210UFCW’s LGBT constituency group OUTreach held their executive board meeting on November 12-13. During the meetings, executive board members heard from numerous leaders in the LGBT community. Speakers included Mara Keisling, Executive Director for the National Center for Transgender Equality, Jerame Davis, Executive Director for the AFL-CIO’s Pride at Work, Daniel Pino from the National Gay & Lesbian Taskforce, and Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema.

Following the numerous presentations, OUTreach’s executive board mapped out goals and actions for 2015. Some of them include attending the Creating Change conference, focusing on the relationships between the labor and LGBT communities, fighting for LGBT workers’ rights in the workplace, and learning more about transgender issues.

UFCW President Hansen Statement on Executive Order Protecting LGBT Workers from Discrimination

UFCWnewsWASHINGTON, D.C. — Joe Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), today released the following statement in response to reports that President Obama plans to sign an executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating against workers on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

“Denying someone a job or a promotion because of who they are runs counter to the American values of equality and opportunity. Yet in more than half of all states, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) workers can be targeted based solely on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“An executive order banning federal contractors from this type of discrimination is a step in the right direction and could benefit as many as 16 million workers. But tens of millions of others still need the protections that can only come with adoption of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which passed the Senate on a strong bipartisan basis.

“At the UFCW, we have long been proud to have nondiscrimination language in our contracts. It is time for the law to catch up. The President is poised to act. The House should follow suit.”

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The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) represents more than 1.3 million workers, primarily in the retail and meatpacking, food processing and poultry industries. The UFCW protects the rights of workers and strengthens America’s middle class by fighting for health care reform, living wages, retirement security, safe working conditions and the right to unionize so that working men and women and their families can realize the American Dream. For more information about the UFCW’s effort to protect workers’ rights and strengthen America’s middle class, visit www.ufcw.org, or join our online community at www.facebook.com/UFCWinternational and www.twitter.com/ufcw.