WASHINGTON (PAI)—The 567 organizations and groups that turned out several hundred thousand people for the “One Nation” march in Washington on Oct. 2 will try to stay together to work on each other’s causes after the Nov. 2 election, a top union participant says.
In an interview with Press Associates during the march, new Service Employees International Union secretary-treasurer Eliseo Medina added that for many of the groups involved, it would mean “getting out of the silos” of their own causes.
The coalition, including SEIU, the AFL-CIO, AFSCME, the teachers, the National Nurses Union, the Communications Workers, the Transport Workers Union and many other national and local unions, got behind the march for two reasons.
One was to show that progressives can muster more numbers than the radical right tea party zealots of radio talker Glenn Beck and GOP politician Sarah Palin. They led a similar march at the Lincoln Memorial – site of the Oct. 2 rally – several weeks before.
The other was to energize the progressive forces for the final days of the 2010 election campaign. Medina and new SEIU president Mary Kay Henry, who was also interviewed, feel it accomplished that.
“We had tens of thousands of members and leaders here to make sure what happens here gets translated in our communities,” Henry said.
“After Labor Day, we found there was a huge interest in whether the vote on Nov. 2 gets America back to work,” she added.
Medina made it clear the coalition will extend beyond the election. “This is an exercise in power,” he explained.
“Whoever wins the election, we’ll still have a lot of problems” to tackle in the U.S., he admitted. They include jobs, the economy, the environment and more. “So there are going to be a lot of conversations among the groups involved about getting a consensus” on those issues, Medina added.
“I’m hoping that we’ll have a plan of action to implement that we can offer to working-class people,” he said.
Medina admitted that energy and enthusiasm among progressives had slacked off in the last two years, after the 2008 election brought Democratic President Barack Obama into office, accompanied by Democratic majorities in Congress – all elected with heavy labor support.
“There was such a sense of excitement in 2008. We forgot and left everything to Obama,” he said.
“But then we saw issue after issue – health care, tax cuts for the middle class, immigration reform – go down” to Senate GOP filibusters and obstructionism. The groups then “realized we had to do something, but organizing takes time,” veteran organizer Medina admitted.