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10,000 union workers turn out to ‘take our country back’

Union members stretch as far as the eye can see.Miller PhotographyUnion members stretch as far as the eye can see. “Twenty years from now,” thundered UFT President Michael Mulgrew, “teachers will be teaching the story of how one percent of the country tried to take the country away from the rest of us. And what happened? The workers rose up, they united and they said we’re going to take our country back. And you will be part of that story.”

Mulgrew delivered these rousing words to more than 10,000 cheering union members, from both the public and private sectors, during a mid-day rally at Times Square on April 9.

The rally was part of the week-long series of actions that took place nationwide starting on April 4, the anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. It was also the latest in a series of “We Are One” rallies called by the New York State AFL-CIO to protest attacks on unions in New York State and across the country.

Equipped with signs reading “Stop the war on workers,” “Collective bargaining is the American way,” and “Blame Wall Street, not teachers,” the demonstrators filled both sides of the street on 7th Avenue from the podium at 42nd Street to 39th Street.

UFT Presidensts at the “We Are One” rally at Times Square.t Michael Mulgrew addrMiller PhotographyUFT Presidensts at the “We Are One” rally at Times Square.t Michael Mulgrew addresses the thousands of trade unioni Teachers were particularly conspicuous in the crowd: NYSUT’s Representative Assembly, held in the city this year, ended the same day, adjourning just in time for the approximately 2,000 delegates, 600 of whom were from the UFT, to march together to the rally.

UFT District Representative Tony Sclafani said he had come out to educate the public “about what’s really going on with the labor movement and the destruction of the middle class in New York and across the country.”

Sclafani asked: “Once they take away collective bargaining, the question is: what will they take away next?”

Aracelia Cook, a school secretary and chapter leader at Brooklyn’s PS 677, said she was concerned about salary and job security in the current anti-union climate. As a parent of a student attending Brooklyn’s Teachers Preparatory HS, Cook also worried about the effect that budget cuts to education will have on children.

“What you see happening with these budget cuts is disgusting,” Cook said. “As parents, we need the labor movement. There isn’t anyone to represent the parents in a just way.”

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