Today, educators across the nation are rallying, marching, holding vigils, and lobbying as part of the We Are One day of solidarity.
April 4 commemorates the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in Memphis, where he was rallying for sanitation workers’ rights. The We Are One movement honors Dr. King’s legacy and the activists today who fight for workers’ and human rights.
“National Education Association members will be standing in unity this weekend across the country demanding the same rights and dignity that Dr. King advocated for the Memphis sanitation workers 43 years ago,” says NEA president Dennis Van Roekel. “We must continue to stand up and stand together for what is right, what is fair and for what students and working families all deserve.”
Van Roekel joined educators and activists in a march this afternoon on the Washington D.C. headquarters of the Koch brothers, backers of anti-worker policies.
Meanwhile, in every corner of the country, NEA affiliates partnered with faith-based organizations, local leaders and fellow labor groups including AFL-CIO and Communications Workers of America, to organize events over the weekend, today and during the week. Unity has emerged as the clear rallying cry.
“We are one. We have a voice. We will be heard,” says Melanie Linton, a music teacher who helped promote and will attend a rally this evening in Fairbanks, Alaska. “We stand together with our fellow union workers across the country.”
Organizers from the Fairbanks Education Association had a tough time finding a site for their rally that wasn’t buried under two feet of snow. But, under the brunt of attacks against public employees and with threatening legislation looming, they wanted to make sure their message of strength and positivity was heard.
“I love my job and I appreciate what the Fairbanks Education Association does to support its teachers,” she says. “It was time to take a stand and be proactive.”
Across the country, activists used We Are One events to summon support for public education. On Thursday, March 31, the United Teachers of Dade brought hundreds of Florida teachers, students and community members together for a “walk-in” to public schools to fight proposed budget cuts. They wore “red for public ed,” toting signs that read “Keep Our Kids Safe.” On the other coast, a Friday march in Los Angeles’ Pershing Square drew 15,000 people.
Half a country away in Laredo, Texas, activists met Saturday morning at their public library for a well-publicized march involving numerous community leaders. Organizer and 31-year veteran special education teacher Rene De La Vina says the Laredo-United of Texas State Teachers Association collaborated with a variety of workers’ groups, from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters to the local police and postal service unions.
“We’re just trying to help each other. [This] is about the education of our students, the future of our children,” he says.
Many of today’s events call on activists to lobby politicians directly. Massachusetts educators spent this morning at a lobby day at their state house, as did members from Pennsylvania, who teamed with the NAACP and AFSCME for a “Day of Action” in Harrisburg.
Diana Reed, president of the Union Township Teachers Association, hopes the rally she helped organize this evening in Valparaiso, Indiana mobilizes her community to lobby legislators against anti-public employee policies.
“People don’t realize what this legislation is going to do to them and how it will impact their rights and their schools,” she says. “If they don’t stand up for their voice, they’re going to lose it. It’s too valuable to have it voted away.”
To get the whole story on the We Are One events happening across the country on April 4, visit the We Are One page on EducationVotes