From the March-April 2011 issue of News & Letters:
Asheville, N.C.–About 500 union supporters rallied at Pack Square Park in downtown Asheville on Feb. 26 at noon to show our solidarity with workers in Wisconsin.
Despite North Carolina’s “right-to-work” laws, there are still unions in Asheville, and those unions were front and center. Union members from the United Steel Workers, the Teamsters and the Communication Workers-America joined with local Green Party members, liberal Democrats and anarchists to stand against reactionary measures against workers’ rights and public services.
MoveOn.Org organized the rally and titled the national gatherings as “Save the American Dream,” which implies that U.S. workers should be entitled to a specific vision of a good life. “I am happy to see this level of national solidarity with our brothers and sisters who are working to achieve their own dreams, but I would be happier if it came without reference to national identity,” said local radio show host Virginia Paris. “We all have hopes, and they often differ from traditional definitions of an ‘American Dream,'” she said.
“It was heartening to see so many people come out to support organized laborers,” said Joe Rinehart, an adjunct instructor at Appalachian State University and a worker-owner at Firestorm Café & Books in Asheville. “I would love to see this sort of enthusiasm here every day for real worker empowerment.”
Dr. Errington Thompson opened with a history lesson about the importance of unions. He reminded us of the Marion Massacre of 1929, a textile strike in a town about 30 minutes east of Asheville, in which six men on strike were shot down by law enforcement.
Speakers also included City Councilman and outspoken atheist Cecil Bothwell, local union organizer Mark Case, and Vicki Meath, executive director of Just Economics, a local non-profit that attempts to address economic disparity through capitalist welfare. Unfortunately, Meath’s suggestions for finding solutions to economic problems involved lifestyle changes like buying locally to support local bosses.
Some participants carried signs provided by the Teamsters that said “Stop the War on Workers!” Most brought their own, with reference to child labor laws, the 40-hour workweek and workplace discrimination. When the event was formally over, a group of anarchists sang old Wobbly tunes.