Published 04 May, 2011
The lively crowd on the steps of the Pennsylvania state capitol in Harrisburg on May 3 broke out into chants of “We Are One” as thousands of Pennsylvanians told Republican Governor Tom Corbett and conservative legislatures that the state budget cannot be balanced on the backs of workers, students and the poor.
Scores of TWU members from Pennsylvania joined the noontime rally in Harrisburg, including two busloads of Local 234 members from Philadelphia joined by many other TWU activists who travelled to Harrisburg on their own to hook up with the TWU contingent, wearing Workers Rights are Human Rights t-shirts and carrying signs and banners.
TWU members descended on the statehouse to show solidarity with fellow union members representing public and private sector workers, and to protest the proposed budget that would cut $2.7 billion, including vital funding public services, while continuing tax breaks for corporations. They were standing up against the attack on working families and joining the nationwide movement to defend the middle class. Local 234 President John Johnson helped to coordinate mobilization for the rally and continued his local’s activism in fighting for workers’ rights.
“The Governor wants to make cuts to services that everyday people need,” said Gordy Moretton of TWU Local 2009. “We need to stop this attack on the middle class.”
Worker unity and people power was on display as Local 234 and SEIU members chanted back and forth “We Are One” and “Workers Rights are Human Rights” on the steps of the capitol. Union members, community activists and clergy all spoke in front of the crowd after a group marched from the Chamber of Commerce where they protested against big business who is not paying their fair share.
“If we allow them to knock us down, it is only going to knock the unorganized down. We have always been the voice of labor, so we are here for everyone today,” said David Szczepanski of Local 234.
The transit workers, teachers, construction workers, miners and nurses who took time in their busy workweek to rally for an equitable budget are fed up with politicians in Pennsylvania and across the country who are trying to slash services while giving away millions of dollars to the greedy corporations and weakening workers’ rights.
The protestors expressed their anger about the proposed cuts to education that would eliminate Kindergarten, cut back on after school programs, increase class sizes and increase college tuition. “These cuts would limit the youth of America’s ability to prosper,” said Lawrence Ooten of Local 2016.
“We don’t want our kids on over-crowded classrooms. We don’t want health care cuts for our seniors. We don’t want huge increases in tuition,” said AFSME Council 13 Executive Director Dave Fillman to the crowd. “A budget with devastating cuts for working families is wrong. A budget without a drilling tax on Marcellus Shale is wrong. A budget that allows tax loopholes for big corporations is wrong.”
Pennsylvanians are also outraged about the lack of taxes being paid by oil companies who are drilling for natural gas throughout the state. The huge multi-national companies are exploiting natural resources and polluting the environment without paying a cent to the state of Pennsylvania.
The state budget is due on June 30th and unions, progressive organizations, environmentalists and people of faith are coordinating through the Coalition for Labor Engagement and Accountable Revenues (CLEAR) to promote a budget that provides for all Pennsylvanians and helps build strong communities and create jobs.