Over one thousand San Diegans – mainly of them union members – rallied today, Sat, Feb 26th, in the rain in support of Wisconsin working people.
Under dark gray clouds, and in front of the County Admin Building, representing every union in the County, San Diego labor flexed its muscle today in a show of solidarity with the demonstrators in Madison. It was largely expressed during the event by speakers, signs, and chants that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s assault on collective bargaining and other union rights of public employees was a war on working people and unions in general, and that San Diego – often considered a non-union town – was standing up in support of them.
Many community groups were present also, and as the rain swept through the crowd, the crowd held its ground as hundreds of umbrellas quickly emerged and were thrown up instantly as if on cue. It was a very mixed crowd that gathered, many wearing red jackets or shirts as a sign of solidarity with Wisconsin. Young, old, white and people of color, men and women of all ages and groups mingled together on the sidewalk and in front of the fountain on the bayside of the large, looming County building behind the crowd. One speaker later pointed out that the building had been build by the Depression-era WPA in 1936.
Lorena Gonzalez, the Secretary-Treasurer of the San Diego County Labor Council, opened up the event and introduced speaker after speaker, each represented a union and each of whom was heartily welcomed. Spontaneous chants broke out, including the theme of the rally, “we are one.” Gov. Walker and the billionaire Koch brothers were routinely booed whenever theirs names came up.
Firefighters were there, carpenters, Teamsters, social workers, plumbers, secretaries, electricians, nurses, teachers, city workers, service workers, janitors, laborers, homecare workers, librarians, para-medics – you know the people that make society run, who provide the services for us, and make government function.
The general themes of the speakers were repeated throughout the early afternoon demonstration, that Wisconsin Gov. Walker’s assault was not about that state’s budget, that he was broadly attacking public unions’ rights, hence the rights of all unions. Many speakers equated that to an attack on San Diegans and Americans in general. Many speakers declared that the anti-union attack in Wisconsin – and other states like Ohio, Indiana, New Jersey – was an attack on the American dream, the middle class, and ordinary Americans.
Demonstrators were also hugging both sides of Harbor Drive, waving signs to cars passing by. Every once in a while a large tractor trailer rolled by, honking loudly, with the word “Teamster” on its side.
Speakers representing nurses, teachers, and unions such as AFSCME all cited the need for unions, their positive role in society, especially as a bulwark against the very rich, the huge corporations, their PACs and politicians who do their dirty work, like Gov. Walker and the other GOP governors pushing radical right agendas.
A number of elected officials were on hand and a few of them spoke, including State legislators Juan Vargas, Toni Atkins, and Ben Hueso, and San Diego School Board president Richard Barrera.
At one point Lorena Gonzalez said that there is a lot of corporate media in this town, but there are some independent media including blogs that supports labor and progressives – and that one such blog was the OB Rag which, she said, helped to organize the event.
As Mother Nature exhibited all of her treasures – the sun would break out, followed by another drenching, and then wind, the crowd hung in there, as community groups like MoveOn, Progressive Democrats of America, the Green Party all gave endorsements.
Finally, the crowd had dwindled by a little after 2pm, but a statement had been made, that even in San Diego labor and its allies will stand up in a strong sign of support for those in Wisconsin.
(More details, photos, and video as we gather our resources. Check back later.)