Despite Mother Nature’s actions in Washington, DC this weekend, labor leaders, civil rights activists, educators and DREAMers gathered in the house of labor on Friday for the National Symposium for Jobs, Justice and the American Dream on the heels of 48th anniversary of Aug. 28, 1963’s March on Washington.
AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker started the event off, along with Martin Luther King III and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, about the need to “shake “ up our leaders, the needs of struggling families and the unemployed who want to work.
“Natural disasters we can’t control,” said Baker referring to the recent earthquake and Hurricane Irene. “Man made disasters, the ones we can control, we have the power to change their direction, if we so chose.”
The symposium consisted of two panels “ Jobs and the American Dream” and “Justice and the American Dream.” Each panel reflected on the issues of now while comparing them to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s work and wishes.
The panels each consisted of five speakers who discussed the issues of working families, the attacks on the working middle class, undocumented students, the LGBT community and youth workers who also took questions from the audience.
“If you believe in justice for all, jobs, health care, collective bargaining and immigrant rights are fundamental,” said Dr. Mary Frances Berry, Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought Professor of History, University of Pennsylvania.
Workers from Ohio and Wisconsin also shared their own struggles and triumphs, along with DREAM Activist, Isabel Castillo, who earned a college degree she can’t use because of the United States’ broken immigration system.
“To live in fear of being rejected by the only country we know, being deported to a place we’ve never seen is very hard,” said an emotional Castillo.
Castillo and the others shared the same sentiment-given the recent attacks from Republican extremists, tax incentives for the rich, the increased amount of inequality and the economic downturn- there is a need for a strong, mobilized movement to join forces and fight back, push the envelope and protest.
Also, a reminder from Kurston Cook, Young Worker Coordinator for the AFL-CIO about our elected officials,“Elections are winning one day. Governance is winning every day.”
To watch the symposium in full and to see a list of the panelists you can click here.