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One Nation rally: Liberal groups gather Saturday in Washington

The Fox News conservative commentator exhorted a sprawling crowd on the Mall on Saturday to restore the traditional American value of honor.

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Arlene Holt Baker
Executive VP, AFL-CIO
Friday, October 1, 2010; 1:00 PM

Liberal groups hoping to revive enthusiasm before November's midterm elections are encouraging their members to come to the Mall on Saturday for a rally that they expect to draw tens of thousands of people.

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Unlike last month's Glenn Beck rally, in which overt politics took a back seat to religious and patriotic themes, the progressive groups will repeatedly remind attendees to vote in the midterm elections, said Arlene Holt Baker, executive vice president of the AFL-CIO.

"We have heard a lot about frustration and anger leading to apathy. What we are finding is that anger is now turning into, 'Okay, let's act,' she said. "We can either sit here and not move forward or we can go backward."

Baker was online Friday, Oct. 1, at 1 p.m. ET to discuss the One Nation Working Together rally.

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Arlene Holt Baker: Hi Arlene Holt Baker here to talk about tomorrow's One Nation Working Together March. We are so excited that a diverse group of people will come together to demand jobs, justice and education on 10.2.10. I look forward to your questions.

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Union march?: Hi Arlene, I heard this is a union march -- if I'm not a union member, can I go?

Arlene Holt Baker: Absolutely you can attend! It is not a "union" march. Union members will be there but this a march representative of the whole community - our faith community our civil rights community our LGBTQ communiy. Let me emphasize and certainly people of all faiths, racial and ethnic backgrounds will be in attendance. Anyone that believes that our nation should be moved forward to put American back to work, to ensure justice in all our society - in the community and the work place and believes that all of our children should have access to a quality public education should attend this march. I hope to see you on the mall tomorrow!

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Can you describe the event more?: Who are the headliners for your event, the speakers I'd enjoy listening to? Are there performers, too? Or is this more of a protest march that will go from point A to point B and doesn't have major speeches? I'm trying to get a handle on the purpose of my going. Is it for me to hear a particular speaker or speakers, or just to bear witness for the crowd count, or to show that not everyone is a Glenn Beck fan, or what?

I marched in a giant pro-choice rally years ago (no special speakers, but a strong focus that Roe was under threat, everyone wore white, a real gathering of forces), so I'm open to an event without headliners, but am confused. Living in the D.C. area, I always decided these things at the last minute (it's just a Metro ride). Fill me in!

Arlene Holt Baker: For instance Richard Trumka from the AFL-CIO, Ben Jealous from the NAACP, Janet Marguia of NCLR- this is only to name a few. But what's unique about this march - we will hear from real people telling their stories of why they want our elected officials to move a bold and aggressive policy agenda for jobs, justice and education.

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Gaithersburg, Md.: What is a role of unions in the United States today other than supporting political candidates and increasing labor costs for businesses? Are there any instances of unfair treatment of workers or poor compensation in sectors where unions do not exist?

Arlene Holt Baker: The primary role of unions is to ensure that workers have a voice in the workplace and that they can bargain collectively for their wages, hours and working conditions. Beyond that unions are a movement too and we fight not just for workers' right and human rights and civil rights. Our role for social and economic justice is not just about union members but for our nation as a whole. Today 25 percent of employers will unfairly and illegally terminate employees for trying to form and join a union. This is not acceptable so we fight to ensure that every worker has a voice in the workplace. Let me add here that the majority of workers who decide to come together to act collectively come together around the issue of respect in the workplace. At the end of the day our fight is now and always will be to push for shared prosperity.

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Washington, D.C.: When and where does the march happen?

Arlene Holt Baker: Saturday, October 2 at the Lincoln Memorial 11:00 am. to 12:00 is an ecumenical service and the rally will officially start at 12 noon. I encourage you to be there early because tens of thousands will be there. You can get more information at www.onenationworkingtogether.org or www.aflcio.org/onenation

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Harrisburg, Pa.: This is more of a comment, yet I believe it is important for labor to let people know one major distinction about this current recession: people are not finding jobs. In the history of unemployment insurance, we are observing record numbers of people end their benefits without finding employment. During past recessions and depressions, we never saw so many people unable to find jobs. Do you see some solutions? Are there potential jobs programs that could help, or what would you recommend?

Arlene Holt Baker: Your comment hits the nail on the head. It is not a recovery until people are back at work. There are ways to put people back to millions of people back to work building and repairing our crumbling infrastructure. Our bridges, our roads, our public schools and hospitals we can invest in building high speed rail. Not only does this give us an opportunity to create jobs - but good paying good green jobs that can help sustain families. We know our small businesses need help and that's why the AFL-CIO has called for using $30 billion in leftover TARP funds to aid community banks so that they can lend to small businesses. The whole community benefits when we create jobs - those who have homes are not likely to be in foreclosure and are able to pay taxes that support sustaining vital public services. Such as our teachers, police and firefighters.

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Chrysler: Reading your response above, what do you think about the UAW possibly appealing the termination of the Chrysler workers who were drunk and high on the job? As a taxpayer who goes to work every day and now has helped support the ailing car industry I was offended that we kept their jobs for them and this is what they think is the acceptable. I think to band together is one thing, to use might in a way to allow workers who are creating unsafe vehicles (let's face an impaired person putting to cars is not a safe atmosphere for the plant or the people buying those cars) seems like it might overstep the line.

Arlene Holt Baker: I believe that every worker should have a right to due process.

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Rockville, Md.: What is your recommended "aggressive policy for jobs, justice and education?" President Obama has already thrown billions of dollars we don't have to try to fix it, and it had a minimal effect. Please say you have ideas beyond throwing money and financial incentives at the problem.

Arlene Holt Baker: The stimulus helped to save or create 3 million jobs without it there would be 18 million unemployed as opposed to the unacceptable 15 million. President Obama's stimulus brought us back from he brink of disaster. It's not about throwing money at the problem. We need to get back to making things in America. We need a robust manufacturing sector and policies that reward companies that keep work on our shores and not move jobs offshore.

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Just wan to thank unions: I believe because he was a union member my dad (who dropped out of high school to fight in WWII) was able to put four children through college. My sister first started with the California Nurses and is still fighting so that we get better patient care. I wish we had unions for computer people because we need them. I believe there is a strong correlation with the demise of unions and the demise of the middle class. Keep fighting for us.

Arlene Holt Baker: Workers who have unions are part of the middle class. Without unions our middle class will continue to shrink. With the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act workers who want to form and join a union can do so without employer intimidation and harassment - even computer workers. That's why we continue to fight for the passage of labor law reform.

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Michigan: Everyone knows the shape Michigan is in... I cannot be there but I'm wondering if there will be a live broadcast of any kind, we know the media won't cover it except to make fun of it so will there be an online coverage at all?

Arlene Holt Baker: You can watch a live stream of the march at www.onenationworkingtogether.org or www.aflcio.org/onenation Yes it is tough in the state of Michigan and unemployment numbers are 15 percent in Detroit. This is not acceptable. And that's why we fight to put Michigan back to work and put our nation back to work.

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Washington, D.C.: What motivated building the One Nation movement? What is the vision for America?

Arlene Holt Baker: We recognized that so many people are frustrated, angry and frightened because of the existing economy. And there are forces that have tried to take that anger and frustration and divide the nation and get people to go against their best economic interests. Those participating in the One Nation Working Together march believe strongly that people are ready to take action over apathy. We will rally and march on 10.2.10 vote on 11.2.10 and get up fighting on 11.3.10 for the public policies that will move America forward economically and socially.

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washingtonpost.com: One Nation Working Together

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Baltimore, Md.: Unionized teachers have been getting savagely attacked in the press and in movies recently. As public-school parents, we may support unions but we still need to know that our kids are getting a high-quality education. Can you direct me to some resources that show that unionized teachers are actually of a high quality and are not the only thing that is failing kids in the public schools?

Arlene Holt Baker: First of all we all have a responsibility to ensure the education of our children. Parents, teachers, administrators and the broader community. Those who demonize teachers and their unions fail to report the facts that teacher unions want to be partners in ensuring quality education of our children. People should not be confused - we cannot and must not move to a system that attempts to privatize education. No teachers union advocates for keeping bad teachers in a classroom but they believe in due process.

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Washington, D.C.: "We need a robust manufacturing sector and policies that reward companies that keep work on our shores and not move jobs offshore."

So according to you companies should pay exorbitant wages to unionized labor that result in higher production costs and higher costs to the consumer instead of outsourcing to developing countries (that also are in need of jobs) with appropriately skilled labor and lower consumer costs. I thought we were supposed to be entering the era of a global economy?

Do unions in the United States also represent workers in other countries, particularly developing ones?

Arlene Holt Baker: Yes I believe that workers should be paid decent wages so that they can support their families. And to ensure that workers should have the right to join together collectively to negotiate their wages, hours and benefits. And yes we work in solidarity with our union sisters and brothers around the world. It can't just be about profits it must be about the workers who help ensure the profits. It's about shared prosperity.

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Arlene Holt Baker: On October 2nd we'll rally at the Lincoln Memorial for jobs, justice and education. We will vote on November 2nd and on November 3rd we will continue to hold our elected officials accountable to ensure economic and social justice for our nation. This is the promise of America: Liberty and Justice for all. Thank you for your questions and I look forward to seeing you tomorrow. It will be a great day!

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Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


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