Screen Actors Guild members joined thousands of people in downtown Los Angeles Saturday to show solidarity with fellow unions. Since Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker launched an attack on public sector unions’ right to collective bargaining, labor groups have been staging rallies around the country and gathering support to fight back. (See photo gallery below.)
“I really believe they’ve wakened a sleeping giant,” said Ellen Crawford, the chair of SAG’s MOVE (Members Organizing Volunteer Efforts) Committee. “Working people are tired of the attacks on their livelihoods and their unions."
Saturday’s crowd, which officials estimated to be between 5,000 and 8,000 people, gathered near the Los Angeles Convention Center and marched to Pershing Square for the noon rally. The large turnout meant that many were still en route as the program began. But wherever protesters found themselves, there was no shortage of enthusiasm, as evidenced by the marching bands, dancers and costumes. Although the atmosphere was festive, the serious subject of the day’s event remained in the forefront.
Teachers, Teamsters and working-class Americans from across the spectrum turned out to make their voices heard and listen to speakers, which included Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa; Mahlon Mitchell, president of the Professional Firefighters of Wisconsin; and Maria Elena Durazo, secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles Country Federation of Labor.
“Workers’ rights are human rights,” stated Hoffa in an impassioned speech. “We have lit a fire. Let’s make sure it goes all the way across this country.”
SAG Hollywood Division Board member Woody Schultz said what brought him to the rally was his deep concern about the future of unions. Referring to recent legislative action to strip collective bargaining rights from Wisconsin public workers — and the extraordinary protests it has ignited across that state -- Schultz said he thought that kind of attack on working people would backfire and even encourage working people to stand up for their rights.
“I grew up believing in the power of the union, and to see what’s happening now in this country…is incredibly sad,” he said. “I’m here to add my voice to the thousands around the country and around the world.”
Photos courtesy Mike Kichaven and Tom Leupold. All rights reserved.