by Bob Roman
Twenty minutes before the Saturday Noon beginning of the rally in solidarity with Wisconsin workers, a few hundred people had already gathered in the plaza in front of the Thompson Center within the Loop in downtown Chicago. I had just arrived in a clot of a dozen or so off a CTA Blue Line train. For some of them, downtown Chicago was unfamiliar territory, slightly intimidating, and they navigated uncertainly. We emerged from the subway station to find a rally already in progress. To fill the time before the official start, the organizers opened the microphone to everyone wishing to speak.
By the time the rally began, the plaza was nearly full, and organizers announced about 2,000 people were present.
Citizen Action/Illinois Co-Director William McNary served as the rally’s master of ceremonies, and he was one of the more spectacular speakers at the event. AFSCME Council 31 Deputy Director and International Vice President Roberta Lynch was also one of the better speakers, providing details about the ongoing confrontation in Madison, Wisconsin. The crowd cheered her assertion that “Whether you are a member of a labor union or not, we are all members of the labor movement now.”
Other speakers at the rally included U.S. Senator Richard Durbin, Illinois Federation of Labor Secretary Treasurer Tim Drea, Illinois State Senator Don Harmon, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308 President Robert Kelly, and Illinois Federation of Teachers President Daniel Montgomery. Moveon.org and the Sierra Club also provided good speakers.
The rally was organized in a matter of days through email, social networks, and personal contacts. It was a passionate rally, very heavily populated by union members instead of just the “usual suspects.” If this level of passion and determination can be sustained beyond the immediate fights in Wisconsin, Indiana, and Ohio, then we will indeed have witnessed the birth of a new movement. Otherwise it is a glorious defeat.
Roberta Lynch’s quote comes from a Huffington Post article by Robert Creamer.