Hundreds rally in solidarity with Wisconsin workers
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HARRISBURG -- Several hundred laborers converged on the Capitol steps at noon Saturday to stand in solidarity with their union brethren in Wisconsin, where Republicans are seeking to revoke collective bargaining rights.
Auto workers, teachers, electricians, postal workers and railroad workers banded together, chanting "We are one," and carrying signs with messages such as "Save the American dream" while "We Shall Overcome" -- the signature song of civil rights activists -- played over a loudspeaker.
"We are here to stand in solidarity with Wisconsin workers and American families everywhere," said Michael Morrill of Keystone Progress, the advocacy group that organized the rally. "Right now the American dream is slipping away for millions of us, and we're here today to say enough is enough. It's time for our government to work for us, and not just corporations and millionaires."
Similar rallies were held simultaneously in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and at state capitols and major cities throughout the country, including New York City, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.
Some Harrisburg rally goers aimed to send a message to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett that they will not stand for Pennsylvania union rights to be trampled. Mr. Morrill said laborers worry that Wisconsin's anti-union legislation will spread to other states.
"We just want to let the governor know that this is not going to be tolerated in Pennsylvania," he said.
Most at the rally, though, said their main objective was to show support for unionized workers in Wisconsin. The state Assembly there passed limits Friday on the collective-bargaining power of government workers' unions, as Senate Democrats remained out of state to block action on the bill in that chamber. The Oklahoma House is considering a bill to ban collective bargaining for municipal workers, and Tennessee Republicans have introduced legislation that would bar collective bargaining between teachers and local school boards.
"People need to stand up together for one another. That's why we're here," said Boh Wittle, a postal worker from Perry County, who attended with his wife.
In the crowd, one woman carried a "Wisconsylvania" sign. Nearby, a man wore a Wisconsin sweatshirt and others later chanted, "We are Wisconsin," a play on the football rally cry "We are Penn State."
Across the street, about 40 counter-protesters used whistles and bullhorns to try to drown out the pro-union rally. Most identified themselves as tea partiers.
"The people of Wisconsin want to balance their state budget," and collective bargaining impedes that by resulting in higher wages for government workers, said Kurt A. Snavely of Hershey, who joined the counter-protest.
"There's no more money to pay the bills. There's just no more money," he said. "You can't run up debt forever."
First Published February 27, 2011 12:00 am