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Unions rally to ‘Defend the Working Class’ in Jacksonville

By Fernando Figueroa |
March 16, 2017
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Connell Crooms speaks to the crowd
Connell Crooms speaks to the crowd on the need to unite the workers movement with the struggle for Black Liberation. (Fight Back! News/staff)
The crowd marches to the Chamber of Commerce.
Richard Blake addresses the crowd
The crowd marches to the Chamber of Commerce. (Fight Back! News/staff)
Richard Blake addresses the crowd and explains that the interests of the working class are directly opposed to the goals of the 1%. (Fight Back! News/staff)

Jacksonville, FL – Over 150 trade unionists and activists rallied March 11 in downtown Jacksonville to defend the working class. Beginning at 2 p.m. in Hemming Park, organizers held a militant event focused on building the struggle against national ‘Right to Work’ legislation proposed last month in Washington.

The event also focused on building the fight against other attacks on organized labor and the working class as a whole, such as attempts to privatize public education and cut Social Security and Medicare. The rally to defend the working class was endorsed by several important local trade union organizations and community groups, including the North Florida AFL-CIO Central Labor Council (CLC) and the Women’s March Florida – Jacksonville Chapter. About two-thirds of those who attended the rally were in unions.

Speakers representing unions gave spirited speeches about the need to rebuild a militant rank-and-file working class labor movement, including representatives from the AFL-CIO, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Communication Workers of America, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, Iron Workers, American Postal Workers Union, International Longshoremen’s Association, United Faculty of Florida, and many others.

The rally included two very special guest speakers: Kimberly Schultz and John Palmer, recently-elected Southern Region vice presidents for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) who ran on the Teamsters United Slate last year with Fred Zuckerman. Zuckerman himself praised the rally the next day at a large Teamsters United meeting in Orlando.

After union leaders delivered their speeches, organizers with the Young Workers of Jacksonville began leading the crowd in chants such as “Working class unity - always leads to victory!” “When workers’ rights are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, Fight back!” “Banks got bailed out - workers got sold out!” and “Workers party now!” Organizers led the crowd of people onto the streets and on a march all the way down to the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, where several more speakers addressed the crowd about the need to build a strong labor movement.

The rally inspired many to learn more about the rich history of struggle that working people have. Many of the young people in attendance showed a great deal of interest in getting union jobs and fighting for workers’ rights on the shop floor alongside the activism they do in the community, like fighting police crimes.

“Today’s rally is momentous for the working class in Jacksonville,” said Dave Schneider, a rank-and-file Teamster and one of the lead organizers for the event. “We brought together union and non-union workers to fight against national Right to Work legislation and the new employer-led attacks on organized labor. Marching on the Jax Chamber of Commerce with 100 workers was about taking the fight directly to the 1% that rules the city and the entire country. The way forward is uniting workers of all nationalities to resist these attacks, and allying with the movements of the oppressed nations.”