Fairfax County labor demonstrates in solidarity with Wisconsin
Many passing cars honk in sympathy; heckler in white pickup shouts
By Fredrick Kunkle,
Members of several organized labor groups in Fairfax County rallied Tuesday on the steps of the library’s main branch in the city of Fairfax to show their support for embattled unions in Wisconsin.
Gov. Scott Walker (R) and fellow Republicans there prevailed in his attempt to strip some public workers of most of their collective-bargaining rights, but Democrats and unions have vowed to fight back through recalls and future election campaigns, sparking renewed demonstrations by labor nationwide.
One of those rallies filled the steps in front of the library at Old Lee Highway and North Street, as dozens of members carried signs saying, “On, Wisconsin! Dump Walker!”, “Stop the Middle-class Meltdown Now!” and “If You Can Read This, Thank a Teacher.”
The “Defend The Dream Rally’’was organized by the Fairfax County Government Employees Union. (FCGEU-SEIU Local 5) . Protesters also said they hoped to strengthen the labor movement in a state that has passed “right to work” laws that prohibit unions from creating closed-shops where membership in a union is a mandatory condition of employment. The commonwealth long ago banned collective-bargaining by public employees.
“I’m here to support my brothers and sisters in Wisconsin,” said Rich French, 62, an AP American history teacher at Fairfax County High School who was wearing a foam “Cheesehead” headgear in support of the state workers there. In Virginia, he said, workers have to take what they can get because of the lack of bargaining rights. “We have no say,” he said.
Richard Lilly, who said he was in his 40s and works as an outdoor adventure guide, said he is not a member of a union but he came to support them because he believes organized labor is under unprecented attack--and at a time when it’s needed more than ever to protect the middle class. “Most people don’t know what’s going on,” he said. “I can’t believe most Americans aren’t in support of this.”
As the rally started to wind down, a heckler with a scraggly white beard pulled up to the intersection in a white Dodge pickup and began cursing at the demonstrators. “Get out of Virginia! Get out, you losers! Get a job!”
Several demonstrators returned verbal fire, saying they had jobs and asking the man what he was doing driving around yelling at people.