Southern labor activists didn’t shy away from taking a swipe at their natural allies as they met on the sidelines of this week’s Democratic National Convention to talk about speeding up organization in a region where unions have been historically weak.
“Are we here mainly as a form of protest against the failed policies of the Democratic Party?” Saladin Muhammad of the Southern International Worker Justice Campaign told the Southern Workers Assembly today at a local Baptist church.
“Both parties have failed the working class.” He said the assembly should be “a marching band” for “` movement that has the energy of the civil rights movement and the politics of human rights and radical change.”
The AFL-CIO’s failure to win more pro-union laws and organize more workers in the South “has been a serious error on the part of the U.S. labor movement,” he said. Because labor unions “campaign one shop at a time” in the South, Muhammad said, “workers feel isolated that they are the only crazy people out there by themselves trying to organize.”
Yesterday, a march for “jobs and justice” organized by Occupy Wall Street South, a coalition of activist groups, passed through Charlotte’s central business district just blocks away from the Time Warner Cable Arena, where Democrats will begin their convention tomorrow to officially nominate President Barack Obama for re-election.
Police estimated the number of marchers at 800. The March On Wall Street South coalition also said it supported Occupy Charlotte’s re- occupation of a city park near downtown where authorities had ejected an encampment of protesters eight months ago.
In an open letter to Obama and the Democratic convention organizers, Charlotte labor leaders said that “thousands of public sector workers, first responders and other public service providers in Charlotte” are “denied basic and fundamental workers’ rights.”
Democrats are holding their convention in North Carolina even though the United Nations’ International Labor Orgaqnization had cited the state for violating international labor standard by denying collective bargaining for state and municipal workers.
“Unjust working conditions are part of the daily life of city workers in Charlotte,” read the letter signed by Al Locklear, president of the Charlotte Local 150 of the North Carolina Public Service Workers Union, and the group’s statewide president, Angaza Laughinghouse.