Workers and Students in North Carolina, Virginia andThroughout the South:
Follow the Lead of Wisconsin Workers and Students!
Resistance in the U.S. to attacks on the publicsector is growing. Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin is unleashing a major assault, seeking totake away collective bargaining rights from stateand possibly all public sector workers, includingthreatening to call out the National Guard againstworker resistance.The labor movement and the students are fightingback. Labor, including public and private sector unions held a rally in Madison at the State Capital,turning out more than 15,000 people demandingthat the Governor’s bill be defeated.High school students throughout Wisconsin walked out of their schools to protest against this attack, which also affectstheir teachers and education. The Madison School Superintendent was forced to close the schools on Tuesday after 40percent out of 2,600 members of the teachers union called in sick. The students see their actions as part of the growingstruggles for people’s democracy that took center stage by the mass actions of the youth and workers in Tunisia andEgypt.The U.S. South is been a bastion of right-to-work laws, denying public sector workers the right to collective bargaining.Dr. Martin L. Kings lost his life supporting the struggle of the Memphis, Tennessee sanitation workers while fighting for this right, which he saw as a next phase of the Civil Rights struggle.North Carolina and Virginia have specific laws making it illegal for workers and state and local governments to bargainfor union contracts. Most of these laws were enacted during the period of Jim Crow, when Blacks were denied the rightto vote and had no representatives in Southern state legislatures. When the state and local governments deny their own workers this basic right, it sends a message to all workers in the region, that the governments are hostile to unions.The lack of a concerted movement to organize public sector workers throughout the South based on a program thatincludes winning collective bargaining rights, has been a major factor weakening the few efforts to organize unions inthe South.The major restructuring of the core industries of the U.S. economy over the past 30 years, resulted in shifting more than1/3 of the auto industry and other formerly unionizedmanufacturing to the South. There are more union membersin the state of New York, than in all of the 11 Southern statescombined.The largely un-unionized South has undermined labor’sstrength as a national movement. Organizing labor in theSouth must be addressed, if the U.S. labor movement is tosurvive and be a powerful force for workers in the U.S. andglobal economy.The economic crisis is increasing the competition between thestates for industries and investments, in their efforts ateconomic recovery. The unionize states outside of the South,in their efforts to shift more public resources to privatecorporations through privatizations, tax breaks and major incentives, are sharpening their attacks on public sector unions to compete with the Southern states and low wagelabor internationally.