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Million Worker March

Workers Take Fight Back To Washington D.C.
by staff |
October 20, 2004
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Washington DC - Ten thousand militant workers and students gathered here, Sunday, Oct. 17, to rally and march at the Lincoln Memorial. The Million Worker March demanded living wage jobs, health care for all and an end to war and occupation in Iraq. The same demands were echoed by union organizers and labor activists across the U.S. The Million Worker March united the advanced - the grass roots of the labor movement who understand that those who fight back can win.

There was a large turnout of African-American workers, union leaders and members of union caucuses. Union workers flowed out of the buses to the rally - transit workers from New York, Haitian workers from Boston, postal workers from North Carolina, AFSCME members and Teamsters from all over the country. Many students and young people drove from as far away as Chicago, Madison and Minneapolis.

The International Longshoremen's Union of San Francisco initiated the rally and had a strong presence. Three years ago, ILU led a fightback against concessions to the big business owners of the shipping yards on the west coast. The corporate owners locked the Longshoremen out and Bush threatened to invoke ‘national security’ and occupy the docks with troops. The Longshoremen beat back that attack and on Oct. 17, they stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, site of the famous “I have a dream” speech by Martin Luther King Jr. There they listened to Ken Riley, President of ILU Local 1422 in South Carolina and leader of the Charleston Five.

Pitched as an event to build a labor movement independent of both the Republicans and Democrats, it was clear that the vast majority of union workers supported dumping Bush from the White House. Speaker after speaker spoke out against the Bush policies of cutting overtime, shipping jobs overseas and fighting an ‘unending war on terror.’ Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark spoke against the war and occupation of Iraq and the U.S. military intervention to prop up dictators in other countries like Haiti.

Nearing the end of the rally, a local leader of the Service Employees International Union from San Diego told Fight Back!, “My local union wanted to send someone to the Million Worker March to represent the public employees from California, so I volunteered. We have the elections coming up and we need to get this guy Bush out of office, but I wanted to show solidarity with other workers.”

The rally ended with several hundred people marching to the Hotel Washington to support the union hotel workers demanding a new contract.