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May Day rally and union picket for fired workers in Asheville

By Sarah Buchner |
May 7, 2014
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Picket outside Asheville newspaper, the Mountain Xpress.
Picket outside Asheville newspaper, the Mountain Xpress. (Fight Back! News/Staff)

Asheville, NC – Two-dozen workers gathered in downtown Asheville for a rally on May 1 to celebrate International Workers Day. Community members and workers brought red flags and signs such as, “Thou shalt not steal. Stop wage theft now!” The Asheville May 1st Coalition organized the rally, bringing together organizers from Freedom Road Socialist Organization, Party for Socialism and Liberation, Women Organizing to Resist and Defend, Veterans For Peace, Industrial Workers of the World, Asheville Homeless Network and Just Economics.

“We want to educate people not only about the history of May Day and organizing but about the current efforts groups here are working on to improve life in Asheville for the working class. Unfortunately, we still lack the basics in Asheville, like the right to organize our workplaces without fear of retribution,” said Bella Jackson, an event organizer. “We lack a minimum wage standard that meets basic needs and our public transit does not yet adequately get people to and from their jobs,” she added.

John Spitzberg, past president of the Asheville Veterans for Peace also spoke, “There can be no peace so long as hunger and want are found among millions of working people while the 1% have all the good things of life. Between these two classes, a struggle must go on until the workers of the world organize as a class.” He urged activists to come to the National Veterans for Peace Convention being held July 23-24th in Asheville.

The next day, union supporters rallied again to picket outside a local Asheville newspaper, the Mountain Xpress. Workers and reporters are organizing with Communications Workers of America to form a union. They hope to improve their working conditions and protect their rights on the job. Picketers demanded the paper rehire senior news reporter David Forbes and photographer Max Cooper, who were both fired for union activity.

Reporter David Forbes, respected by workers for the coverage of the Sitel Union Organizing efforts commented in a blog managed by the workers, “Too often the belief in Asheville and elsewhere is that the people who make a city work are powerless, that we can lose our livelihoods due to asking basic questions or a boss’s bad mood. We often hear that’s ‘just the way it is’ and we shouldn’t hope for better. This is a lie. We have rights, and we have power. Things can change.”

Picketers held signs, “Xpress workers deserve better!” and “Xpress needs a union!” Organizers with the local IBEW also came out in solidarity, holding “Union yes!” signs.

The workers leaflet read, “Asheville weekly newspaper Mountain Xpress is supposed to serve the community and grassroots activism, but the actions of its top management show a determination to bust a union and ignore employees’ rights.”

Mountain Xpress is facing several unfair labor practice charges as a result of their retaliation against the workers trying to form a union.

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