More than 500 Tennessee activists, including CWAers, union members and other allies, rallied at the State Capitol for secure, living wage jobs, public education, and democratic rights to organize, protest, bargain and vote freely.
Union, community, faith, students and other activists begin a series of actions across the state calling on lawmakers to "Put the People First." At the Capitol in Nashville, Tenn., this week, activists rallied and marched to the governor's office to deliver their letter.
Photo credit: Jared Story, UCW-CWA Local 3865.
It was the start of a movement throughout Tennessee to "Put the People First," and activists from faith groups, unions and worker alliances, Jobs with Justice, the NAACP, Citizen Action and many more have come together to form the coalition. At the capitol in Nashville, they rallied, then delivered a letter to Gov.Bill Haslam (R), calling on him and the Tennessee legislature "to make the interests of Tennessee working people your top priority."
Tennessee politicians "have abandoned everyday people, and pursued an agenda that favors huge corporations and the super wealthy," coalition members said in the letter.
"Our coalition has come together because ours is a different vision of Tennessee – one where there are good jobs, that pay us decently and provide benefits; where our kids have access to free, quality, equal public education that's directed by teachers, not corporate lobbyists; and where all of us can participate," they wrote.
At the rally, activists protested attacks by the state legislature on worker protections like overtime pay, public schools and teachers, and the right to vote. They blasted interference by the governor and state lawmakers in the recent election among Volkswagen workers in Chattanooga. Politicians including Haslam and others threatened that Volkswagen wouldn't receive any financial incentives if workers voted for union representation. The UAW has filed objections to the election based on this interference and false and inflammatory statements by U.S. Senator Bob Corker.
Tom Anderson, president of UCW-CWA Local 3865, said, "Our governor, this legislature, and their millionaire backers are trying to destroy 150 years of progressive reforms that the working class has won in our state. But we won't go backward! And when we stand up and fight back, it isn't just at a single rally. Today we're launching of a movement to 'Put the People First!' Just like our sisters and brothers did with Moral Mondays in North Carolina. And we won't stop until they give us what we want!"
The group has follow up actions planned at the capitol, and will hold regional rallies in Middle, West and East Tennessee on May 1, all under the "Put The People First" banner.
The broad coalition includes: Tennessee AFL-CIO Labor Council, United Campus Workers-CWA Local 3865, UAW, Workers Interfaith Network, Jobs With Justice, Show Me 15, Workers Organizing Committee, Mid-South Peace and Justice Center, Tennessee NAACP, Sierra Club, Tennessee Chapter, Memphis Progressive Student Alliance, Statewide Organizing For Community Empowerment, SEIU Local 205, Workers' Dignity Dignidad Obrera, Chattanooga for Workers, Progressive Student Alliance, UTK United, Students Against Sweatshops, Tennessee Citizen Action, Organizing for Action Davidson County, UFCW Local 1995, Concerned Citizens for Justice, Healthy and Free Tennessee, Southeast Laborers' District Council, organized and United for Respect at Vanderbilt (OUR Vanderbilt).