Big rally in Philly against Janus attack on union organizing rights
Workers take to the streets in Philly against Janus attack on union organizing rights. | 32BJ SEIU

PHILADELPHIA—With the historic City Hall building looming in the background, a dense crowd of workers and their allies loudly proclaimed their support for union organizing rights. The rally was held in the face of the impending Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 Supreme Court case which threatens the right of public sector workers to organize and bargain collectively.

The demonstration included large contingents of both public and private sector workers as well as allied organizations and activists such as environmentalists, immigrant rights groups and “dreamers” facing possible deportation under threats from Trump Administration and conservative leaders in the Republican-controlled Congress.

Philadelphia AFL-CIO President Pat Eiding opened the rally reminding the crowd that the “right of public sector workers to have collective bargaining” was won 40 years ago by a Supreme Court decision, “and we’re going to keep that right…. This is about all working people.”

After showing a short and powerful video of Dr. Martin Luther King speaking in support of Memphis sanitation workers in 1968 the day before his death, Eiding continued, “We can’t let this great man die in vain!” Throughout the morning, Eiding updated the demonstrators on all the participating organizations, including Transport Workers, Teamsters, Food and Commerical Workers, Teachers, Service Employees, Electrical Workers, AFT, Sheet metal Workers, the Sierra Club, Pride at Work, Poor People’s Campaign, and the New Sanctuary Movement.

The Rev Mark Tyler of Mother Bethel AME Church told the crowd that “people of faith stand with you; you are not alone!” and then recalled that the first two union organizers were Moses and Aaron who took Pharaoh the message, “Your time is up; let my people go!” That is the message, he said, that we must now take to the pharaohs in Washington, DC, in the White House and in Congress.

Mary Kay Henry, national President of SEIU, who marched with her members to the rally from Independence Hall 10 blocks away, told the crowd that, “We have to stand with every immigrant and every dreamer and every justice movement. We’re going to take our country back and fight for a just society for all. When we organize, we win!”

AFL-CIO national President Richard Trumka urged everyone to “look around; what you see is a growing, dynamic, powerful movement! We’re in this together and ready to rise up together. Fifty years ago, Dr. King stood for the freedom to fight, the freedom to vote, the freedom to organize and join together in a union. He continued, “The Janus case is a naked attack on all working people and an attempt to use the highest court in the land to undercut unions, public and private. We are one union family!”


Ben Sears
Ben Sears

Ben Sears is a retired teacher and AFT member in Philadelphia. He is the author, as John Bennett Sears, of the book "The Electrical Unions and the Cold War" (International Publishers 2019).