Category Archives: Public Employee Organizing

A Profound Attack on Workers and Their Organizations

Viewed by many as the most serious assault on labor organizations in recent history, the Supreme Court decision in Janus vs AFSCME is a call for the unions and worker organizations to adopt more militant and aggressive tactics in dealing with employers. Following is a statement by the Southern Workers Assembly (SWA) with an analysis and ideas on the way forward.



“In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans such as ‘right to work,’” Martin Luther King, Jr. said in 1964. “It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights.  “Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions for everyone…Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer, and there are no civil rights.”

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North Carolina Teachers Rising Up

May 16, 2018 represents North Carolina educators’ entry into the nationwide teacher rebellion against the attacks on public schools. Following the courageous efforts of teachers in West Virginia, Arizona, Colorado, Kentucky, and Oklahoma, North Carolina educators are part of the growing resistance to the failures of state legislators to provide children with a sound basic education. That education includes adequate and safe facilities, up to date learning materials and highly qualified and well-paid teachers and education support personnel which includes teacher assistants, social workers, psychologists and bus drivers.

In this moment education workers are on the cutting edge of the struggle of public employees and the people of this country to keep our institutions in the public domain and not be offered up to greedy profit seeking corporations who care nothing about our well being and quality of life. Their only concern is the bottom line. This means that bus drivers, sanitation workers, fire fighters, caseworkers and so many more have a common fight.

This fight requires many tactics. Taking to the streets is key to making the others, like voting and lobbying, effective. We cannot outspend the 1%. At the end of the day, withholding our labor is the key device in our toolbox. The teachers realize this and at the same time have been clear on making sure that our children are safe and fed because this fight fundamentally is for our children and our families.

We support these demands (in addition to others) regardless of what political party has control of the legislature:

  • Increase per-student spending
  • Increase pay for educators with a plan to get to the national average and immediate across the board pay raises for all state employees. Repealing corporate tax breaks can pay for this.
  • Increase funding for textbooks, supplies and materials so educators do not have to spend hundreds of dollars of personal funds to do their jobs.
  • No performance-based pay but a pay scale that values veteran educators, and provides pay incentives for advanced degrees.
  • Increase teacher retiree pensions by 3%; provide state funded health insurance
  • Freeze any increases in health care costs for public employees, which require no additional resources from the State. Maintain comprehensive health insurance coverage for all State employees.
  • Accept federal funds to expand Medicaid, giving affordable health care to the one-quarter of North Carolina students who live in poverty.
  • Stop the attacks on public schools by placing a moratorium on new charter schools and private school vouchers.
  • We also demand the repeal of NC General Statute 95-98, which denies public employees the right to collectively bargain for higher wages, better and safer workplaces, and stronger protections against discrimination.

As the parents and grandparents of Black children we call on education workers and unions to join us in the fight to end the “school to prison pipeline”, eliminate the achievement gap, create a historically accurate and anti-racist curriculum and implement restorative justice instead of punitive discipline and remove School Resource Officers (SRO’s).

Education is a Human Right!

All out for May 16th!

All out for the Poor Peoples Campaign!


(Black Workers for Justice*

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Building People’s Assemblies, Platforms and Power “Before, During and After” the 2016 Elections

The Political Landscape:

The central issue in the 2016 presidential and local election campaigns is NOT the Republican and Democratic Party candidates or even Bernie Sanders vs. Hillary Clinton.  It is the growing economic and social crisis of the US capitalist system.  Most important is the crisis’ devastating impact on workers, black and brown immigrants, Native Americans, women, the LGBTQ community, youth and the elderly.BlackWorkersMatter2

Amid all the TV debates, news stories in the media, and billions of dollars spent by corporations and billionaires, workers, black and oppressed people have a human and fundamental democratic right to discuss and organize political campaigns to address our needs! We also have a right to discuss how our community, workplace and society should be run and even dare to organize and run it ourselves!

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Moral Monday and Malcolm X


“We declare our right on this earth…to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary.” Malcolm X, 1965

May 19 is the first Moral Monday of the legislative short session in N.C. It is also the birthday of Malcolm X a courageous and gifted leader in the fight for Black freedom and human rights. Almost fifty (50) years after he uttered those famous words North Carolinians find themselves in the street once again in the quest for full humanity.

The assault on our voting rights, health insurance, unemployment benefits, public education, Women’s reproductive rights and workers rights calls for the response that is expressed in the Moral Monday/Forward Together movement.

When we spoke out and challenged them they criminalized our actions and arrested us. Now they want to silence us with even more drastic restrictions. But we will not be silenced and we are determined to speak out and resist those who seek to trample on our democratic and human rights.

And so we are called to build and strengthen Moral Mondays.  And we take the spirit and morality of the movement to our local communities and workplaces.  We are compelled to run and elect People’s candidates and to fight for democracy in our workplaces. Contact us to talk about this work.

Stop Criminalizing the Right to Protest!

Drop the Charges Against All MM Arrestees!

Forward Together, Not One Step Back!


Tens of Thousands in North Carolina Vow ‘Not Now, Not Ever’

Willamor photo croppedExcerpted from

Tens of thousands of marchers took to the streets of Raleigh, North Carolina, Saturday to show their opposition to the extreme right-wing agenda that has gripped the state since the Tea Party gained control of the legislature and governor’s office.

The march and rally were called a Moral March—in connection with the sustained Moral Monday protests that resulted in nearly 1,000 arrests for civil disobedience during the spring and summer of 2013.

The diverse thousands who descended on the Capitol came from all over North Carolina and 32 other states, and represented a broad array of social justice movements. Labor, environmental, women’s rights, youth, LGBT, health care, and teachers groups joined with civil rights and faith-based organizations to hold what may have been the largest march and rally in the South since the Selma-to-Montgomery March in 1965.

Youth groups from across the country who were planning events for the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer joined the events and held their own conference.

The Moral March was a continuation of the HKonJ Peoples Assemblies that have grown in size each year, reaching 10,000-15,000 last year on the seventh anniversary of the original event. (HKonJ refers to “hundreds of thousands” on J Street, where the Capitol is located.)

This year’s phenomenal numbers can be attributed to the outrage of North Carolinians in response to, among other things, the governor’s refusal to accept federal money to extend Medicaid for 500,000 uninsured people, cutting extended unemployment benefits for 150,000 workers, and passing an extremely restrictive voter suppression bill.
With attacks on women’s reproductive rights, labor rights, and LGBT families added to the toxic mix, thousands decided to take a stand.

Labor Shows Up

Unions and labor groups joined in with spirited delegations. United Electrical Workers (UE) Local 150, Food and Commercial Workers, Teamsters, and Farm Labor Organizing Committee had the most notable groups.

Labor delegations from out of state included 1199 (health care workers) from New York City, the Carolina Alliance for Fair Employment from South Carolina, and individuals from New Jersey, Ohio, Georgia, Indiana, and other states.

A large teachers delegation from the North Carolina Association of Educators wore red as part of their campaign calling on teachers not to sign individual employment contracts that would require them to give up tenure in exchange for five yearly bonuses.

Fast food workers formed another of the more exciting delegations, wearing red knit caps with the slogan “Raise Up.” Dozens came from North and South Carolina and Georgia. They conducted strikes in August and December last year, and have had a constant presence in the Moral Monday movement.

“I felt awesome about the march and being a part of a movement for justice, fighting the man, and it was like we were back in the 1960s,” said Morgan Greene, a Taco Bell worker from Charlotte. “It was amazing to see so many causes out there—like women’s rights, civil rights, equality, and more… We gotta keep on pushing. We’re having an impact: Obama raising the minimum wage to $10.10 [for federal contract workers] shows we’re being heard and gotta keep pushing forward for $15.”

North Carolina AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer MaryBe McMillan opted for a poem rather than a traditional speech. The last three stanzas reflect the emphasis the national federation promises to put on Southern organizing:

The bosses want their workers cheap,
Meek and docile like sheep.
They move their companies South,
Hoping we won’t give them any mouth.

Well, imagine their surprise
As they watch the South arise.
From the mountains to the sea,
Black, white, and brown agree.

Now is the time to take a stand
For justice throughout this land.
That’s why we’ll organize every workplace, every town,
And there’ll be no stopping us, no backing down.

Civil Disobedience Next

UE 150 Vice President Larsene Taylor said Governor Pat McCrory’s effort to enshrine the Jim Crow-era ban on public employee collective bargaining (via a constitutional amendment) would “strip away the already weak rights of unions and the working class.

“We need a Workers’ Bill of Rights made into law that supports and guarantees basic human rights for all workers,” she said.

The Southern Workers Assembly, a new regional rank-and-file alliance, marched with a casket signifying the number of deaths— 2,840—that are predicted as a result of the failure to extend Medicaid coverage.

They also demanded that charges be dropped against all those arrested during the Moral Monday protests. Many have been found guilty of some or all charges against them, and are appealing. SWA and the U.S. Human Rights Network say the charges criminalized protest and represented a violation of human rights protected by international conventions.DSC_0344

Rev. William Barber, North Carolina NAACP president, laid out the movement’s current demands, which put labor and economic justice at the top of the agenda:

Secure pro-labor, anti-poverty policies that insure economic sustainability
Provide well-funded, quality public education for all
Stand up for the health of every North Carolinian by promoting health care access and environmental justice across all the state’s communities
Address the continuing inequalities in the criminal justice system and ensure equality under the law for every person, regardless of race, class, creed, documentation, or sexual preference
Protect and expand voting rights for people of color, women, immigrants, the elderly, and students, to safeguard fair democratic representation.
The crowd responded with cheers and shouts when Rev. Barber said the march and rally were the start of a new season of mobilization that will include civil disobedience, voter registration, and legal action.

Outside Agitators

When the Moral Monday protests launched last year, the governor and the Republicans contended that the participants and arrestees were “outside agitators,” a return to the white supremacist mantra used during the civil rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s.

The charge was false, but in response the NAACP invited others to join the movement. Many have answered the call, both out of solidarity and out of an understanding that North Carolina is ground zero for the anti-worker, anti-women, and racist legislative agenda being promoted by the Koch Brothers and the American Legislative Exchange Council.

Moral Movements have sprung up in Georgia and South Carolina. Activist groups in many other states are considering taking up the same approach in response to austerity budgets and attacks on the poor.

In his keynote address, Barber described the attacks on the quality of life in North Carolina as “low.” The crowd responded “that’s low” after each one. He intoned that the people will not accept these policies—“not now, not ever.” He ended with a call for the movement to push the state and the nation to seek “higher ground.”

It’s hard to imagine that we can go any lower in terms of workers’ rights and economic justice in North Carolina and the rest of the country. But it is indeed possible—and probable—without a rigorous response like that emerging in North Carolina.

Ajamu Dillahunt is a retired Raleigh Area Local Postal Workers president, a member of the Black Workers for Justice Coordinating Committee, and a former Labor Notes Policy Committee member.

Go here and here to see videos of the crowds who marched and danced through Raleigh’s streets February 8.