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Union leaders talk women’s march and what’s next

Stephon Johnson | 1/26/2017, midnight
Millions of people around the world participated in the Women’s March, with large crowds converging in places such as New ...
Women's March on Washington

Millions of people around the world participated in the Women’s March, with large crowds converging in places such as New York, Washington, D.C., Seattle, Cleveland, Los Angeles, London and even Antarctica. However, although grievances have been aired, activists and union leaders understand that the hard work of combating President Donald Trump’s agenda begins after the march.

George Gresham, president of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers’ East, spoke at the women’s march and said that Saturday sent a message to Washington that they’ll continue to stand for equality and justice.

“As a union that is majority women of color and women immigrants, 1199ers know that the right to organize a union in our workplaces is key to women’s rights,” said Gresham. “As powerful as Saturday was, our struggle is far from over. Our 400,000 members will continue to denounce President Trump’s hateful policy ideas and rhetoric toward women, minorities and all marginalized people.”

Hector Figueroa, president of 32BJ, reminded Trump that he begins his first term with the lowest approval rating in recent memory and that working class Americans won’t back down from him.

“Despite his promises to create jobs and fight for working people, Trump’s early anti-labor secretary pick—who sees raising wages as a problem rather than a solution—and the Trump/Ryan plan to ‘Make America Sick Again’ by cutting taxes for the rich at the expense of 20 million Americans covered by Obamacare are already proof that the new administration and the Republican majority in Congress is one of the billionaires and for the billionaires,” said Figueroa in a statement to the AmNews.

According to The New York Times, a crowd scientist said that Washington had three times more people for the Women’s March on Washington than for Trump’s inauguration. Gresham said that the crowd, and his union, will continue to demand equal pay for equal work, a living wage and affordable, quality health care.

“All people of consciousness need to build on the momentum and hope we saw at the women’s marches, and stand strong against all forms of bigotry and oppression against our communities,” said Gresham.

When the AmNews contacted the American Federation of Teachers, we were directed to a long version of union President Randi Weingarten’s speech at the march that was cut for time. The AFT had 20 buses of members and leaders from multiple states head to Washington for the march.

“At a time when we are being inundated with the fake, we know what is real,” said Weingarten. “Anxiety is real. Injustice is real. Discrimination is real. Inequality is real. But so is solidarity. And so is hope. Your being here today shows the power of collective action — the same power that is at the core of labor unions. Collective activism is the best check and balance against acts of xenophobia, Islamophobia, racism, homophobia, sexism and misogyny. It creates voice. It’s what drives us toward justice and opens up opportunity. It creates hope.”