By Joe Atkins, Labor South
A call to action has gone out to make this Labor Day, Sept. 3, also the opening day of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., truly a day to recognize the struggle of workers in the nation's least unionized and poorest paid region.
"Workers must let the big banks, corporations and both parties know that we as workers will continue building our powerful Southern movement that addresses our needs as workers and not corporate greed!" proclaims a statement issued from the Southern Workers Assembly, which plans a major presence at the DNC convention. "Enough is enough! We will organize, unionize, and fight back!"
Dante Strobino, an organizer with the North Carolina Public Service Workers Union, United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) Local 150, said workers and activists from across the South will converge on Charlotte to let the nation and world know of their struggle in the region and in a state that is essentially "Wall Street South" and home to Bank of America, Wells Fargo Bank East and other major corporations.
"We have independent outside space where workers can speak out about crimes of right-to-work for less," Strobino said in a recent e-mailed letter to me. "We also will be having a session there to dig in deeper to our organizing lessons, methods and experiences to help share practices and learn from each other's work to organize in right-to-work states."
The many endorsers of the assembly include: the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC); Ken Riley of the International Longshoremen's Association in Charleston, S.C.; the Southwest Workers Union in San Antonio, Texas; the Mississippi Workers Center for Human Rights; representatives with the United Auto Workers; the North Carolina Triad Jobs With Justice; Black Workers for Justice; and The Labor Forum, WRFG 89.3FM, Atlanta.
A call to mobilization has gone out across the region.
The goals of the assembly include the following:
* Organizing a workers’ speak-out on Sept. 3 in Charlotte;
* Developing an infrastructure utilizing social media and a newsletter to report on workers' struggles across the South;
* Creating a region-wide alliance of existing networks and coalitions as a step toward the founding of a Southern Workers Congress; and
* Gathering resources from national unions and other organizations for a Southern organizing campaign.
"We have such a great opportunity on our hands with the DNC coming to town, but we got to do some work to make sure the voices of real worker struggles and labor is heard," Strobino said in a recent letter to a fellow activist.
Check out the group's interactive web site: http://southernworker.org.
Also on hand in Charlotte Sept. 3 will be another major group of activists, participants in the national No Papers, No Fear Ride for Justice. These are undocumented immigrants traveling across the country to heighen awareness of issues related to their fellow immigrants in the United States.
Some 300 people in the Memphis area this week came together for music and speeches during a stop in that city, and several joined the UndocuBus for the journey to Charlotte.
(Photo of Patrick Brown and Wilma Nedrick, mental health workers and UE members from Petersburg, Va., via Southern Workers Assembly website.)
By Joe Atkins, Labor South
Joe Atkins is a professor of journalism at the University of Mississippi and author of "Covering for the Bosses: Labor and the Southern Press." A veteran journalist, Atkins previously worked as the congressional correspondent with Gannett New Service's Washington bureau and with newspapers in North Carolina and Mississippi.