WASHINGTON (PAI)—“Show us what America looks like! This is what America looks like!”
With that chant – a variation on one that unionists first coined – and more, more than 500,000 people, including unionists from as far as Los Angeles, descended on Washington on Jan. 21 for a massive march for women’s rights.
But that wasn’t the only cause espoused by the D.C. marchers, who were joined by sister marches in cities from New York to Chicago to Cleveland to Los Angeles to Sydney to London. Busloads and planeloads of marchers traveled to D.C. from New York, Chicago, L.A., Toronto, Boston, Portland, Ore., and elsewhere.
“I march for a more perfect union where the law finally guarantees women equal pay for equal work, no matter their race,” California Sen. Kamala Harris tweeted that Saturday. “I march for women’s reproductive rights and the millions of women who would be left without care if Planned Parenthood is defunded.”
“Even if you’re not sitting in the White House,” Harris told D.C. marchers, “Even if you don’t run a big corporate super PAC. You have the power. And we the people have the power. And there is nothing more powerful than a group of determined sisters marching alongside with their partners, and their determined sons and brothers and fathers, standing up for what we know is right.”
Support of the causes, groups and individuals whom Trump vilified and scorned was a big theme of many marchers. But the several thousand unionists at the D.C. march, led by AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler, emphasized a more positive attitude. That attitude carries an edge, though.
“This is so inspiring, especially after yesterday” – Trump’s inaugural — Shuler told Press Associates Union News Service before addressing the labor marchers in their own pre-march rally in a D.C. park.
“We’re here not only to march, but we’re here to build a movement,” Shuler told the crowd, via bullhorn. “It’s a movement for paid family leave. It’s a movement for equal rights. It’s a movement for workers’ rights. It’s a movement for immigrants’ rights.
“We’re going to march together and stand together in solidarity to make sure our voices are heard,” she declared.
The D.C. march drew members of the Coalition of Labor Union Women, the Teachers, the Steelworkers, the Office and Professional Employees, AFSCME District Council 24, the Mine Workers, the Food and Commercial Workers, IATSE, the Electrical Workers, the Professional and Technical Employees, Pride at Work and the Auto Workers, among others.
The marches in other cities, including New York, London and Berlin, drew hundreds of thousands of people more. Some highlights included:
• Some 100,000 people showed up in Los Angeles at 9 am Pacific Time – coincident with the height of the D.C. march, but two hours before L.A. labor’s protest was scheduled to kick off. “We will not stand for hate and division,” the L.A. County Federation of Labor said.
• The San Francisco protest for women’s rights and workers’ rights targeted Trump’s nominee for Labor Secretary, fast-food kingpin Andrew Puzder and his policies and actions. His Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. chains are known for their low wages, job safety violations and sexual harassment. The San Francisco protest started at a Carl’s Jr., then headed downtown.
“He hates the minimum wage, he hates labor unions and he hates the fact that workers actually have rights,” Tim Paulson, executive director of the San Francisco Labor Council, told local broadcasters.
• Some 250,000 people rallied in Chicago’s Grant Park, a crowd so large that organizers had to call off a planned march from there through the Loop – which didn’t stop thousands from doing so anyway.
The Chicago L added trains and cars to its daily service. The farthest station, 30 miles out in the suburbs, had lines going up its escalators out to the surface and the length of its large parking lot.
“Now is not the time to be scared or to stay home,” Veronica Mendez Moore, co-director of CTUL, Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha/Center of Workers United in Struggle, told Barb Kucera of Workday Minnesota. “Now is the time to fight. Now is the time for the resistance.”
• Marches were organized on all seven continents. New Zealand held one of the first Women’s Marches of the day. People protested in cities across the country, and more than 1,000 people gathered at the U.S. Consulate General in Auckland. People marched in Mexico, Prague, and Nairobi, Kenya. In London, a banner with “Build Bridges not Walls” hung on the Tower Bridge and an estimated 100,000 people marched. A small group even gathered in Antarctica, holding signs such as “Penguins for Peace.”
In D.C., individual participants anticipated a long and continuing battle for women’s rights, workers’ rights and other causes, against Trump and the GOP.
“Trump would like to break the union system, so we’re standing strong to combat that for the next four years,” said Barbara Churchill, Treasurer of Theatrical and Stage Employees Local 868 in the D.C. suburbs.
“I’m so excited to be here, amongst my sisters and brothers, standing for justice, not just justice for women, but for all human beings,” said Joan Hill, a Steelworker from Pittsburgh.
“Everything he stands for pushes us back 100 years. That’s ridiculous,” Yvonne Rojo of City of Commerce, Calif., a Los Angeles suburb, told Press Associates Union News. “Let them see the number of people,” added Rojo, an IBEW Local 11 member who flew into D.C. the day before. “I think this kind of speaks for itself – how many people didn’t vote him into office.”
“We want equality for all. Progress cannot be made and America will not be strong if half of us are held back,” said Maryse Crevecoeur, a United Federation of Teachers member from New York, who teaches at PS 6 in Brooklyn. UFT chartered three buses for its members. Its members sung labor’s anthem, Solidarity Forever, during the march.
Another marcher, a special education administrator from Pittsburgh, held a sign reading “I have an I.D.E.A.: Say ‘No’ to DeVos,” referring to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and Trump’s nominee to head the Education Department, Michigan millionaire – and strident public school foe – Betsy DeVos.
“I’m not in the union,” the administrator, who declined to give her name, explained. “But I support them 100 percent, because with no unions, I have no teachers.”
“I came down to show solidarity with my sisters and brothers in the U.S.,” said Sandra Banman, a middle school teacher from Toronto and one member of four busloads of marchers who detoured from the main rally to show up in front of the Canadian Embassy.
“The fact that education is now being labeled elitist is crazy,” she added. “This is liberating. It forces us to be more democratic.”
Signs – especially the hand-made or home-made signs — said much the same thing, for unions and against looming anti-worker, anti-woman, anti-immigrant Republican policies.
“Public education is a human right,” read one sign held by an UFT member.
“It’s the ‘U’ and ‘I’ in union that makes us strong,” the banner from the Carpenters’ local in D.C. added. “United we stand, divided we fall,” said the leader of that group, from Local 177. “Equality hurts no one,” read another sign, carried by a Sheet Metal Worker.
“Trump: Racist, sexist, elitist, homophobic, xenophobic,” read a handmade sign by Dori Strickland, a communications professional, currently unemployed, from Chicago’s North Side. “I need a billboard, not just a sign,” she said. “There are too many problems” with Trump.
Eric Halter, of the Democratic Socialists, was one of several people sporting one-word signs: “Ugh!”
Many marchers made it clear they are campaigning not just for themselves, but for the future. Dozens pushed babies in strollers. Two 15-year-old high schoolers from Towson, Md., held signs that read “Beware! Next time I’ll be voting!” and “Dear World: We are not all idiots.”
And Rosie Poling of Naples, Fla., carried a sign that read: “Today I turn 18. Tomorrow, I work for equality.” Jan. 21 is her birthday.
(Additional reporting by Dorothy Mills-Gregg, Union Labor Bulletin Contributing Writer)