CFL News
March 27, 2018

Uniting for Freedom and to End a Rigged System

Uniting for Freedom and to End a Rigged System

More than 5,000 working men and women from across Illinois rallied and marched in Chicago on Saturday, Feb. 24 to fight for their freedom to form strong unions and to demand an end to the rigged economic system perpetrated by Gov. Bruce Rauner and corporate special interests.

The Chicago rally was part of the nationwide Working People’s Day of Action, marking an unprecedented resurgence in grassroots efforts to realize the unfinished work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the sanitation workers who went on strike in Memphis 50 years ago. James Riley, a Memphis sanitation worker in 1968 who marched with Dr. King, was honored at the Chicago rally for his activism on behalf of working people.

“Today is about sending a message. We’ve sent a message to Governor Rauner. We’ve sent a message to Donald Trump. We’ve sent a message to the corporate insiders who are rigging our system,” said Chicago Federation of Labor Secretary-Treasurer Bob Reiter. “When teachers, nurses, first responders and other public service workers like the ones we heard from today are free to come together in strong unions, working people win.”

The Chicago Federation of Labor, Illinois AFL-CIO, Illinois Working Together, AFSCME Council 31, Illinois Education Association and Illinois Federation of Teachers organized the rally.

“Our freedom is under attack. Governor Bruce Rauner and his wealthy CEO friends have been leading an all-out assault on working men and women for years,” said Illinois Working Together Co-Chair and Illinois AFL-CIO President Michael Carrigan. “Today we stand here to say to Governor Rauner that we will not stand idly by. Whether you’re in a union or not, working people are here to fight back. We are here to unrig the system.”

Speakers at the rally included working men and women from across Illinois who are already suffering the consequences of Rauner’s failed leadership, including educators, fire fighters, public service workers, laborers, and nurses.

“I work hard and I deserve a livable wage. I deserve health care benefits, and so does my son. I deserve a seat at the table. And without a strong union, people like Bruce Rauner could take that away from me, and it would be hard to fight back alone,” said Liz Villareal, an IFT member and academic advisor at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago. “But I’m not alone. I have my union family, mi familia. An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us, and we won’t back down.”

The rally was endorsed by the Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois, SEIU Healthcare, UFCW Local 881, the Illinois Nurses Association, Chicago Laborers’ District Council, Chicago Jobs with Justice, the Illinois Alliance for Retired Americans, Women Employed, ARISE Chicago, Citizen Action / Illinois, Our Revolution - Illinois, Indivisible Illinois, and Fight for $15.

“Because I have a strong union and a seat at the table when policies are made, I have a direct voice in serving my community. I use my voice through my union to speak for kids and families that no one would otherwise hear from,” said DCFS Child Protection Investigator and AFSCME Council 31 member Stephen Mittons of Chicago. “Working people are going to keep coming together. We’re sticking together. We’re using our voices and speaking up—for ourselves, for our families, and for our communities—and we will never quit!”

Emergency room nurse Paul Pater of Chicago said, “My union rights are under attack. Now not only are billionaires attacking my right to a fair workplace, but they are undermining patient care as well. I am here to say today that we are not going to let them win. No matter what happens in the Supreme Court, nurses are standing with each other in our Union.”

“Fifty years later, we carry on Dr. King’s legacy. We will never stop fighting for our freedom to come together in strong unions. We will never stop fighting for our families, our communities, and all working people. And we will never stop fighting to unrig the system that sends so much to so few at the very top,” Reiter added.

“We will never, ever give up.”