BALTIMORE – As part of the national “We Are One” campaign focusing on April 4, the Baltimore Metropolitan Council of AFL-CIO Unions chapter of Young Trade Unionists held an event April 5 which attracted a crowd of about 200 mostly young workers. Hosted by Fred Mason, Jr., president of the Maryland and DC AFL-CIO, the event took place at the IBEW Local 24 hall which is also the Baltimore Central Labor Council headquarters.
The keynote was provided by Mary Pat Clarke, Baltimore city councilwoman from the 14th District and the council’s past president. Her remarks centered on the success of Baltimore’s “living wage” law, how it was passed and the current difficulty of protecting public workers’ benefits and services to Baltimore residents. She read a proclamation from Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake declaring April 5, 201, “We Are One” day in Baltimore City. As Councilwoman Clarke read the resolution, at each “Whereas,” she shot her fist up and the crowd yelled out “Whereas!,” a good way to get people fired up and participating.
A question from someone in the crowd asked, “What can be done about all the ‘illegals’ taking our jobs and our money.” As Clarke started to answer the question, a worker from United Food and Commercial Workers Local 27 stood up and said that we are all descended from immigrants, and furthermore, immigrants, “illegal” or otherwise, are not the problem. “The greedy corporate bosses are the problem!” His comments elicited a rousing response from the gathering. It was clear that the majority of the crowd didn’t buy into the effort by the right wing to divide workers against each other when things are tough. It should be noted that Ernie Grecco, president of the Baltimore CLC, has on several occasions sent out email blasts defending immigrant workers against the right-wing onslaught, with the intent to unify, rather than divide, the labor movement in the Baltimore metropolitan area.
The last speaker was Mason, who introduced a film of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1968 “I’ve been to the mountaintop” speech delivered in Memphis, Tenn., just before King was assassinated. Mason declared that the “We Are One” theme is crucial in this period of unrelenting attack on public workers and all workers. If we don’t unite and defeat the attack, we will lose this stage of struggle, he said.
Many in attendance have participated in one or more of the labor-led rallies in the state capital, Annapolis, in support of the Wisconsin workers and workers all around the country. Mason’s sharp presentation following King’s speech was enthusiastically received, and people finished out the evening with an understanding and enthusiasm for the fight ahead.