Wisconsin may be 1,600 miles away, but that state’s battle over collective bargaining hits close to home for organized labor in Spokane.
“They attack one union, they attack us all,” said Levi Hanson with the National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association. “We’re fighting for the middle class in this country. We’re fighting for our very survival.”
About 200 people gathered at North Spokane Drive and Ruby and Division streets during the evening commute Friday to rally in support of union workers in Wisconsin, where Republican Gov. Scott Walker is trying to end unions’ collective bargaining rights.
The message from Spokane: We are all Wisconsinites.
“We’re standing in support of our brothers and sisters in Wisconsin,” Hanson said. “Everyone should have benefits, living wages, a say when it comes to their workplace. It’s something every human has a right to.”
Union members Friday said the Wisconsin attacks on workers’ rights are not an isolated incident; they are sweeping the nation.
“I feel it’s the first step in a pre-planned attack on all of labor in the United States,” said Kolby Hanson, business representative with Sheet Metal Workers Local 55. “I think an injury to one is an injury to all.”
Deven Johnson, president of the Northeastern Washington/Northern Idaho Building & Construction Trades Council, said workers recognize the need to make concessions at times, but consider the right to bargain collectively to be “God-given.”
“We think it’s an outrage that a legislative body would try to eliminate workers’ rights to bargain under the guise of balancing the budget,” he said.
Axing collective bargaining rights will lead to a decline in prevailing rates, benefits and working conditions, said Kevin Flynn, of The Laborers Northwest Regional Organizing Coalition.
“Without unions and collective bargaining, who is going to set the standards? The employers can do whatever they want.”