Tag Archives: solidarity

Thousands in Wisconsin join in ‘Day Without Latinxs’ action

Thousands of people Feb. 13 went on strike, closed their businesses and withdrew their children from school to resist Donald Trump’s executive orders on immigration and to stop Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke’s from enrolling his department in the federal 287g program.

The events, a “Day Without Latinxs, Immigrants and Refugees,” culminated in a march from Voces de la Frontera’s offices to the Milwaukee County Courthouse.

Voces said throughout the state,  more than 150 factories, grocery stores, bakeries, construction companies, auto dealers, restaurants and other businesses closed out of solidarity or due to worker absence.

More than 120 businesses closed in Milwaukee.

Many other businesses experienced decreased production due to work stoppages, Voces said in a news release.

At the courthouse, there was music and speeches, including by Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, Milwaukee County Supervisor Supreme Moore Omokunde and state Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa of Milwaukee.

“Today, we escalate the national and international struggle against Trump’s executive orders, which aim to expand the machinery of mass deportation and legalize discrimination based on race and religion,” said Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of Voces de la Frontera.

She continued, “We came from more than 25 cities in Wisconsin to show Trump and his lapdog Sheriff Clarke that the people of Milwaukee, the people of Wisconsin, and this whole country reject the 287g program and their mass deportation plans. Today, we organized a Day Without Latinxs, Immigrants, and Refugees to use our economic power – through work stoppages, small business closures and our consumer boycotts, to defend our families and communities.”

Germán Sanchez, an Omro dairy worker marched with five coworkers. Sanchez said, “Latinos are the backbone of Wisconsin’s dairy industry. Latinos are responsible for a large part of Wisconsin’s milk production. We work long hours in the cold and heat. We are a positive part of the community, we are family and work-oriented. We love what we do, but we are organized and ready to fight against people like Trump, Clarke, or any politician who attacks our families. We have power. Trump needs to know that if he is putting Latinos at risk, he is putting the dairy industry and the whole economy at risk.”

The Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition participated in the action. MMWC president Janan Najeeb said, “This is not a struggle that has Muslims, immigrants and refugees on one side and everyone else on the other side. This is a struggle between people that stand for brotherhood, compassion, mercy, justice and human dignity on one side and those that stand for hatred, racism, xenophobia and injustice on the other side.”

See photographs by Joe Brusky from the day here.

AFT: Labor unions and shared prosperity

On the occasion of Labor Day, a message from American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten on the importance of the labor movement to American workers and communities:

Today is Labor Day—and there’s a good reason it’s a national holiday. By organizing together and fighting collectively, workers have been able to better their lives and the lives of their families. So rather than think about Labor Day as the last gasp of summer or bemoan the loss of union clout, let’s redouble our efforts to re-create an enduring middle class.

Income and wealth inequality rivals levels last seen in the Gilded Age. The American dream has slipped away from those who are working hard to make it. And rather than confronting these realities, many — particularly on the right — turned to union bashing and restricting labor rights that rendered people powerless to address inequities. The result: stagnating wages and stifled hopes for men and women who worked hard and played by the rules.

But we continue to fight — to fight for higher wages, fair contracts, professional development, safety measures, and resources for our members and their students, their patients and the others they serve.

America’s educators, healthcare professionals and public service workers know this firsthand. After the Great Recession, some on the right seized the political moment to vilify teachers and assault the labor movement that gives them a voice. In the aftermath, a study by a University of Utah economist showed that, in the four states that successfully weakened teachers’ right to bargain together, public school teachers’ wages fell by nearly one-tenth. That’s a statistic we as educators and public servants simply cannot afford.

Conversely, robust unions help everyone — not just the people who form them—and a growing body of research demonstrates that. There’s a multiplier effect. Through unions, we lift up our communities, strengthen the economy and deepen our democracy. If unions were as strong today as in 1979, according to a timely new study by the Economic Policy Institute, nonunion men with a high school diploma would earn an average of $3,016 more a year. And the Center for American Progress has found that kids who live in communities where unions are strong have a better chance to get ahead.

Workers in unions earn, on average, 27 percent more than their nonunion counterparts. The National Women’s Law Center has found that unions close the pay gap for women, and the Center for Economic and Policy Research has found that black workers see outsized gains from union representation. It’s a powerful reminder of the link between organized labor and economic success.

You see the union advantage in our advocacy as well. When the recession devastated the construction sector and put millions of Americans out of work, the American labor movement came together with the goal of raising $10 billion to repair the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. Five years later, our pension funds have reallocated $16 billion for infrastructure investments, including rehabilitating New York City’s LaGuardia Airport, turning it into a travel hub befitting a great modern city and creating good American jobs in the process.

In hospitals and patient care settings across the country, our members have been leading the fight against workplace violence.

And in the classroom, unions are critical partners in giving kids the chance to succeed. A 2016 study from the National Bureau of Economic Research finds that where teachers unions are strong, districts have a better track record of building the quality of our teaching force — keeping stronger teachers and dismissing those who are not making the grade. Through unions, teachers fight for the tools, time and trust that educators need to tailor instruction to the needs of our children, to help them reach for and achieve their dreams.

Here at the AFT, we take that work seriously—for example, curating Share My Lesson, a free digital collection of lesson plans and resources for educators used by nearly a million people. In fact, Share My Lesson has more than 750 lessons about Labor Day!

Despite years of right-wing attacks on unions, a 2015 survey found that a majority of Americans would join a union if they had the choice. They know what a union offers: a voice in their workplace, the opportunity to negotiate wages and benefits and the ability to retire with dignity and security.

Indeed, despite all the attacks waged against us, the AFT—which celebrated our 100th anniversary at our national convention this summer—has grown over the past several years, with well over 1.6 million K-12 and higher education educators and staff, state and local employees, and nurses and other healthcare professionals as members. And now we are seeing more vulnerable workers — such as adjunct faculty and graduate students, teachers at charter schools and early childhood educators—seeking to join our ranks. In the private sector, tens of thousands of low-income workers have joined the Fight for 15 and the union movement because they know a union will help them get long-denied wage increases.

We have taken on the fight for adjuncts and early childhood educators from Pennsylvania to California — many of whom work multiple jobs just to make ends meet. These are the people who teach our youngest children, and they’re the ones who educate our college students; they deserve to live above the poverty line while doing this critical work.

Graduate students at Cornell University are celebrating the recent National Labor Relations Board decision that reinstates the right of graduate workers at private universities to organize. They are building momentum and talking to hundreds of fellow grad students about the power of collective bargaining, and are excited about the prospect of winning union recognition and joining more than 25,000 AFT graduate employees at public institutions who already enjoy the benefits of a contract.

The aftermath of the Great Depression and World War II led our country to understand we were all in it together. We established the GI Bill and other educational access and equity programs; management and labor respected each other, with unions being the voice of labor; and the middle class thrived.

Now, as income inequality is again at its height, let’s remember on this Labor Day what a strong labor movement has done—and can do again—to help workers, our communities, the economy and our democracy grow and thrive.

Shooting suspect asked for directions to Planned Parenthood clinic

The man accused of killing three people at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado asked at least one person in a nearby shopping center for directions to the facility before opening fire, a law enforcement official said, offering the clearest suggestion yet that he was targeting the reproductive health organization.

The official was not authorized to publicly discuss the investigation and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Prosecutors are charging Robert Lewis Dear, 57, with murder and other crimes in the Nov. 27 attack that also left nine other people wounded. Colorado Springs police have refused to discuss a motive for the fusillade, but there’s mounting evidence to suggest Dear was deeply concerned about abortion, having rambled to authorities about “no more baby parts” after his arrest.

Dear asked at least one person in the nearby shopping center where the Planned Parenthood was earlier that morning, the official said.

A second law enforcement official said Dear assembled propane tanks around a vehicle and brought at least 10 guns, including rifles and handguns, to the clinic, where he swapped gunfire with officers during an hours-long standoff. It was unclear whether Dear purchased all of them, but despite brushes with the law, he had no felony convictions that would have prevented him from buying a firearm.

Planned Parenthood cited witnesses as saying the gunman was motivated by his opposition to abortion.

A Colorado Springs police spokeswoman this week referred questions about the investigation to El Paso County Sheriff’s spokeswoman Teri Frank, who said she could not comment on the ongoing investigation. 

Dear had been living in remote locations without electricity or water and was known to hold survivalist ideas. One of his three ex-wives, Barbara Mescher Micheau of Moncks Corner, South Carolina, said he had vandalized a South Carolina abortion clinic at least 20 years earlier, announcing to her that he had put glue in the locks of its doors, a common protest technique among activists trying to shut down abortion clinics.

Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers would not discuss Dear’s motive or details of the investigation, but he praised responding officers, who he said rescued 24 people from inside the clinic building and helped remove 300 people from the surrounding businesses where they had been hiding while the shooting unfolded.

“They went in at their own peril, but that contributed to basically 24 people getting out of that building safely,” Suthers said of the officers. Six officers were shot in the rampage, one of them fatally. The other victims were accompanying separate friends to the clinic when they were killed.

Youth demonstrate in D.C. for racial, immigration, climate justice

Nearly a thousand youth from across the country took to the streets of Washington, D.C. to demand that candidates and elected officials adopt an agenda that delivers racial, immigration and climate justice.

College students and young people from across the country assembled early on Nov. 9 in Franklin Square, where they held a rally with speakers from immigration rights, social justice, and climate movements.

Activists are requesting to meet with every presidential candidate to hear how they plan to deliver a justice agenda for the youth generation.

“The voices of those that have gone unheard for too long will be heard in this moment,” said Dante Barry, executive director of Million Hoodies. “A cross-section of youth activism have come together to say that change is something that we demand and the time to act upon it is now. From environmental to criminal justice, the country we live in today does not reflect the beliefs of the population it comprises. We are here to take a stand and to make our mark for a better future for the next generation. As we strive to strengthen the democratic process, we aim to empower those that have not yet found their voice while giving power back to people in communities across the nation to show that we are standing together, stronger than ever today. We will continue to work tirelessly and in solidarity until our goals are achieved.”

As the march headed toward H-street, the crowd shut down business-as-usual and held the intersection outside the White House for over two hours.

“Immigrant communities continue to be criminalized, and we are here today to demand justice. Rogue agencies like Immigration and Customs Enforcement continue terrorizing our communities and continue tearing people from their loved ones,” said Greisa Martinez, advocacy coordinator with United We Dream,an immigrant youth-led organization. “Our political system is failing communities of color, and as 2016 approaches, it is up to us to demand real moral leadership for our communities. Candidates can’t simply rely on tired talking points, but instead must propose real solutions that allow people like my mother, Elia Rosas, to live with full dignity.”

The “Our Generation, Our Choice” action signaled the emergence of a new alliance between different youth movement finding common cause in the lead up to the 2016 election. The demonstration coordinators included United We Dream, Million Hoodies Project, the Fossil Fuel Divestment Student Network and it was supported by groups such as 350.org.

“More than ever, our government must stop pouring resources into destructive, outdated systems that put profit before people. Together, the thousands of youth who risked arrest in demanding justice will continue to fight back against the violence that destroys our communities and our planet,” said Yong Jung Cho, campaign coordinator with 350.org. “In the last week, we have seen the tide turn against the fossil fuel industry and the extractive economy that it represents. History will show that organized people beat organized money. People power is the only thing that has ever created change, and we are unstoppable when we stand together.”

It’s time to unite again, Wisconsin!

For more than a century, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other corporate-right groups have been trying to eliminate labor unions. Corporate chieftains fear that by negotiating fair wages, safe workplace conditions and benefits for workers, unions reduce their profits. They fail to consider that unions might increase their profits by providing them with better-trained and more committed workers. Nor do the big wigs consider that unions ensure adequate compensation for the people who make them rich.

They do consider, however, that unions have a ripple effect throughout the labor market. By establishing fair conditions in unionized workplaces, unions force non-union companies to provide competitive wages and benefits in order to attract the best workers in their industries. 

As unions have lost their power over the past few decades, wages and benefits have been on a race for the bottom. Forty years ago, when unions were strong, a worker could support a family of four on the minimum wage. Now minimum-wage workers require public assistance to avoid starvation. Most must work two or more jobs and have little chance of completing college.

Anti-union politicians, swimming in the generous donations of the uber rich, say that so-called “right-to-work” laws are only fair, because they prevent unions from collecting dues from all the workers who benefit from union contracts (in truth, there are other ways for many workers to opt out of paying union dues). But they know that “right-to-work” will ultimately bust unions. Tellingly, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other corporate groups charge their members dues. Without those dues, they’d soon be out of business themselves.

Tea party Republicans, who control state government, were preparing to ram “right-to-work” legislation through the Wisconsin Senate as WiG headed to press. The Assembly also will take it up and pass it quickly. Gov. Scott Walker has said he’ll sign it into law. There will be no discussions or debates over this issue, just as there were none preceding Walker’s gutting of public unions in 2011.

No one knows fully what effect destroying unions will ultimately have on workers or the quality of American goods. Will the nation morph into a cheap labor market like India? Will we see a return of the sweatshops and virtual slavery that characterized working conditions for the poor prior to the rise of unions? Will workhouses for children reappear? We already know that Koch-backed groups are vigorously trying to eliminate workplace safety laws, so apparently nothing is off the table.

We also know that:

• Workers in “right-to-work” states earn about $1,500 less per year less than workers in other states. The discrepancy is even wider for women and workers of color.

• The rate of workplace deaths is higher in “right-to-work” states, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

• The rate of employer-sponsored health insurance for workers in “right-to-work” states is 2.6 percentage points lower than in other states.

• Seven of the 11 states with the highest unemployment rates are “right-to-work” states.

Walker fears that a law turning Wisconsin, the very home of the labor movement, into a so-called “right-to-work” state will disrupt his presidential aspirations by provoking the massive kind of demonstrations that Madison saw in the wake of Act 10. Let’s make his wildest fears come true.

It’s time to organize once more in solidarity. We cannot sit by quietly and let the nation’s oligarchy continue to throw our middle class under the bus so they can purchase their next $100 million penthouse and $20,000 shower curtain with the sweat of our brow.

Wisconsin, unite.

To learn about a rally opposing “right-to-work” in Milwaukee on Monday, click here.

Michigan Gov. signs anti-union bills despite protests

In a dizzyingly short time span, Republicans have converted Michigan from a seemingly impregnable fortress of organized labor into a right-to-work state, leaving outgunned Democrats and union activists with little recourse but to shake their fists and seek retribution at the ballot box.

The state House swiftly approved two bills reducing unions’ strength Dec. 11, one dealing with private-sector workers and the other with public employees, as thousands of furious protesters at the state Capitol roared in vain.

Republican Gov. Rick Snyder signed the measures into law within hours, calling them “pro-worker and pro-Michigan.”

Workers deserve the right to decide for themselves whether union membership benefits them,” Snyder said. “Introducing freedom-to-work in Michigan will contribute to our state’s economic comeback while preserving the roles of unions and collective bargaining.”

House Speaker Jase Bolger exulted after the vote that Michigan’s future “has never been brighter,” while Democrats and union activists said workers had been doomed to ever-lower living standards. Lacking enough votes to block the measures or force a statewide referendum, opponents set their sights on the 2014 election.

“Passing these bills is an act of war on Michigan’s middle class, and I hope the governor and the Republican legislators are ready for the fight that is about to ensue,” said Gretchen Whitmer, the Senate Democratic leader.

As 1 of 24 states with right-to-work laws, Michigan will prohibit requiring nonunion employees to pay unions for negotiating contracts, representing them in grievances and other services. Supporters say the laws give workers freedom of association and promote job creation, while critics insist the real intent is to drain unions of funds need to bargain effectively.

Labor has suffered a series of setbacks in Rust Belt states since the 2010 election propelled tea party conservatives to power across much of the region. Even so, the ruthless efficiency with which Republicans prevailed on right-to-work was breathtaking in Michigan, birthplace of the United Auto Workers, where unions have long been political titans.

The seeds were planted two years ago with the election of Snyder, a former venture capitalist and CEO who pledged to make the state more business-friendly, and GOP supermajorities in the House and Senate. They have chipped away repeatedly at union power, even as Snyder insisted the big prize – right-to-work – was “not on my agenda.”

Fearing the governor wouldn’t be able to restrain his allies in the Legislature, labor waged a pre-emptive strike with a ballot initiative known as Proposal 2 that would have made right-to-work laws unconstitutional. It was soundly defeated in last month’s election, and Snyder said Dec. 11 the unions had miscalculated by bringing the issue to center stage.

“I don’t believe we would be standing here in this time frame if it hadn’t been for Proposal 2,” the governor said at a news conference after signing the bills. “After the election, there was an extreme escalation on right-to-work that was very divisive.”

After days of private talks with legislative and union leaders, Snyder threw his support behind the measures last week. Within hours, Senate Republicans had introduced and approved them without the usual committee hearings. After a mandatory five-day waiting period, the House did likewise Dec. 11.

It happened so quickly that opponents had little time to generate the massive resistance put forward in Indiana, where right-to-work was approved earlier this year, and Wisconsin during consideration of a 2011 law curtailing collective bargaining rights for most state employees. Those measures provoked weeks of intense debate, with Democrats boycotting sessions to delay action and tens of thousands of activists occupying statehouses.

Still, Michigan unions mustered thousands of protesters who massed in the Capitol’s hallways, rotunda and front lawn. Crowds formed before dawn on a chilly morning. Four oversized, inflatable toy rats bearing the names of Snyder and GOP legislative leaders were on display.

“They’re selfish. They’re greedy. They’re Republican,” said Susan Laurin, 60, of Saginaw, a secretary with the state Department of Transportation, wearing a hard hat like many fellow demonstrators.

Seventh-grade teacher Jack Johnson, of East Lansing, said the GOP’s goal was obvious: “You take away money from the unions and they can’t support the Democratic candidates, and the Republicans take over.”

“No justice, no peace!” protesters chanted, the chorus reaching a deafening din as the House prepared to vote. “Shame on you!” they shouted from the House gallery as the results were announced.

Republicans insisted the bills were given adequate consideration, as the issue had been debated across the state for years. Snyder said he saw no reason to delay signing the measures, especially with opponents still hoping to dissuade him.

“They can finish up, and they can go home because they know … making more comments on that is not going to change the outcome,” he said. “I view this as simply trying to get this issue behind us.”

Don’t count on it, state Democratic Chairman Mark Brewer retorted.

“If Gov. Snyder thinks that Michigan citizens will go home and forget about what happened in Lansing today, he is sorely mistaken,” state Democratic Chairman Mark Brewer said. “Snyder has set the tone for the next two years, and this fight is not over.”

Snyder said he expects the law to be challenged in court but believes it will stand. Opponents also said they might seek recalls of some legislators.

Meanwhile, unions must adapt to a new reality.

The laws take effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns. Even then, workers bound by existing contracts won’t be able to stop paying union fees until those deals expire. But activists fear some will opt out at first opportunity.

“A lot of people like to freeload,” said Sharon McMullen, an employee of the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.

LGBT groups respond to violence in Oak Creek, Joplin

A coalition of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender civil rights groups and allies issued a solidarity statement responding to this week’s violence in Oak Creek, Wis., and Joplin, Mo.

The statement, released Aug. 9, reads:

“As organizations serving lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) communities, we are stunned and saddened by the recent spate of violence against communities across the country. The shooting at the Sikh gurdwara (temple) in Oak Creek, WI that left 6 people dead was certainly a blow to all of us on Sunday, August 5. To hear about the fire at the mosque in Joplin, MO not even 24 hours later compounded our sense of tragedy and shock. We send our deepest sympathies to the families affected.

“Currently, details about both incidents are still emerging. Local law enforcement in Oak Creek have been joined by the FBI in an ongoing investigation of the incident as a potential act of domestic terrorism and a potential hate crime. The fire in Joplin was the second of its kind at the mosque, on the heels of another fire on July 4. Motives in both cases are still being determined (the first fire at the Joplin mosque was determined to be arson).

“The LGBTQ communities we work with and serve are no strangers to violence in our midst. We know our communities are threatened on a daily basis by the many faces of hate and intolerance – not just because of our sexuality or gender identity, but because of our race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, ability, and too many other facets of our identities. We stand in solidarity against all forms of violence, as well as the hate and intolerance that all too often propagate it.

“We roundly condemn the violence committed against our fellow community members in Oak Creek, WI and Joplin, MO. As flags fly at half-staff around the country, we call for a fuller dialogue among diverse communities, law enforcement, and policymakers to better address violence in our communities.”

The groups that signed the statement include: Advocates for Youth, Affinity Community Services, Inc., American Civil Liberties Union, Asian Pacific Islander Equality- Northern California, Audre Lorde Project, CenterLink: The Community of LGBT Centers, Family Equality Council, FIERCE, First Nations Two Spirit Collective, Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, Immigration Equality | Action Fund, International Federation of Black Prides, National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, National Center for Transgender Equality, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Queers United for Action, PFLAG National (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), Queers for Economic Justice, Queer Muslim Working Group, Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project (QWOCMAP), SALGA, Southerners on New Ground (SONG), Sylvia Rivera Law Project and Trikone.

May Day actions taking place coast to coast

May Day protests may disrupt the morning commute in major U.S. cities today as labor, immigration and Occupy activists rally support on the international workers’ holiday.

Demonstrations, strikes and acts of civil disobedience are planned around the country, including the most visible organizing effort by anti-Wall Street groups since Occupy encampments came down in the fall.

While protesters are backing away from a call to block San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, bridge district ferry workers said they’ll strike to shut down ferry service, which brings commuters from Marin County to the city. Ferry workers have been in contract negotiations for a year and have been working without a contract since July 2011 in a dispute over health care coverage, the Inlandboatmen’s Union said.

A coalition of bridge and bus workers said they will honor the picket line, which may target an area near the bridge’s toll plaza. Occupy activists from San Francisco and Oakland are expected to join the rally.

“We ask supporters to stand with us at strike picket lines on May Day and to keep the bridge open,” said Alex Tonisson, an organizer and co-chair of the Golden Gate Bridge Labor Coalition.

In anticipation of the strike, the agency that operates the Golden Gate Bridge and related public transportation systems canceled the morning ferries from Marin County to San Francisco and urged regular riders to make alternate travel plans.

Police say they are working with other area law enforcement agencies and have a plan in place for potential disruptions. They would not discuss specifics.

Across the bay in Oakland, where police and Occupy protesters have often clashed, officers are preparing for a long day as hundreds of “General Strike” signs have sprouted across town.

In New York City, where the first Occupy camp was set up and where large protests brought some of the earliest attention – and mass arrests – to the movement, leaders plan a variety of events, including picketing, a march through Manhattan and other “creative disruptions against the corporations who rule our city.”

Organizers have called for protesters to block one or more bridges or tunnels connecting Manhattan, the city’s economic engine, to New Jersey and other parts of the city.

The Occupy movement began in September with a small camp in a lower Manhattan plaza that quickly grew to include hundreds of protesters using the tent city as their home base. More than 700 people were arrested Oct. 1 as they tried to cross the Brooklyn Bridge.

The city broke the camp up in November, citing sanitary and other concerns, but the movement has held smaller events and protests periodically since then.

Elsewhere on the West Coast, Occupy Seattle has called for people to rally at a park near downtown. Mayor Mike McGinn has warned residents there could be traffic delays and has said city officials have evidence – including graffiti and posters – that some groups plan to “commit violence, damage property and disrupt peaceful free speech activity.”

In Los Angeles, Occupy is organizing a daylong “people’s power and bike caravan” that will start from the four cardinal directions around the city in the morning, converging on downtown LA’s financial district in the mid afternoon for an approximately 90-minute protest. The themes of the marches are foreclosures and police brutality.

In a website statement, Occupy LA promised the event will be “city-paralyzing” and “carnivalesque” with en route actions including a food giveaway in a South Los Angeles park, and mini-rallies outside the Veterans’ Affairs and Bank of America buildings in West Los Angeles.

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May Day Solidarity March set for Milwaukee

Equality Wisconsin is encouraging its supporters to join in the May Day Solidarity March set for April 29.

The march steps off at 12:30 p.m. outside Voces De La Frontera at Fifth Street and Washington in Milwaukee. Marchers will go to Veteran’s Park for a rally that includes keynote speeches by U.S. Reps. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, and Luis Gutierrez, D-Chicago.

“Voces De La Frontera has always stood by Equality Wisconsin and let’s make sure we stand by them,” said Jason Burns, EW’s executive director.

Billboard award winners Kinto Sol will headline at the rally, held in concert with May Day Solidarity events across the United States. The day of action is for immigrant and worker rights.

“On April 29th community groups, politicians and individuals representing the rights of immigrants, labor, public education, faith groups, civil rights, LGBT, Occupy and many others will unite in solidarity,” VDLF said.

The marchers will be:

• Demanding a stop to the separation of families with deportations.

• Calling for good jobs.

• Opposing cuts to Badgercare and public education.

• Demanding restoration of driver’s licenses and in-state tuition for immigrants.

• Defending voter rights.

March organizers are encouraging people to volunteer to put up posters, handing out fliers and spreading the word on the Web.

Read WiG’s report on Latino support for LGBT equality in the current issue and on the web at www.wisconsingazette.com.

Download a PDF of the current issue of Wisconsin Gazette and join our Facebook community.

Straight couples in Illinois choose civil unions to show solidarity with gays

A number of heterosexual couples in Cook County, Ill., chose to formalize their relationships with civil unions instead of marriage this year in order to show solidarity with same-sex couples, who are not allowed to marry under state law.

A total of 87 heterosexual couples obtained civil union licenses between June 1 and Sept. 19, according to the Cook County Clerk’s office. During the same time period, 1,383 same-sex couples obtained civil union licenses in the county.

Cook County Clerk David Orr conducted a survey to find out what motivated straights to choose civil unions over marriage. One partner from 46 of the 87 couples was reached – a response rate of 53 percent.

Of those who were reached 12, or 26 percent, cited political or ideological reasons such as equality and inclusiveness.

“Some heterosexual couples are clearly making a statement when they are civilly united rather than married,” Clerk David Orr said. “One respondent put it best when she said this decision was in solidarity with the gay community until they also have the option of getting married.”

An unpaid student intern working for the Clerk’s office conducted the telephone survey in September. Respondents ranged in age from 19 to 74. Twenty respondents were women and 26 were men. All but nine were white.

 When asked, “Are you still planning on getting married at some point?,” 38 percent of men and 65 percent of women said “yes.”