UFCW Local 1994 “We Are One” Event

Cuffie introduced Gino Renne, President of Local 1994, who spoke of the county budget issues in the larger context of the events in the Midwestern US.   He connected the current situation with the circumstances that led to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4, 1968.  King had gone to Memphis TN to support the largely African-American sanitation workers who were demanding union representation and the respect and dignity that would come with it.

Mark Perrone, International UFCW Secretary-Treasurer, asked why US conservatives felt the need to “demonize” workers.  The answer lies in the attempt to shift blame for the present economic calamity and consequent government budget shortfalls away from the financial sector.  If successful, this strategy would weaken unions to the point of collapse and usher in the type of small-government policies that would provide for the unbridled power of corporations.  Perrone made the point that employers have a “union – the US Chamber of Commerce.”   He ended his remarks by challenging unionists to seize the opportunity presented by the current focus on labor relations.  “Wear your union shirts to the grocery store,” he said, “talk to your neighbors and family” about why unions are important.  His words were very well received.

The Montgomery County Council must make a final decision about Leggett’s budget proposal. Among the speakers were two members of the council including the President, Valerie Ervin, who spoke of her experience as a union organizer and labor educator at the National Labor College.  Renne later embraced Ervin, and told those in attendance of her extraordinary efforts to resolve the budget crisis in partnership with organized labor.

The best had been saved for last, however.  MCGEO member Theresa D'Antoine was seriously injured in an accident involving the county bus she was driving.  She talked of the challenges that bus operators face daily, to the approving shouts of her peers in the audience. She described the financial hardship that her life-threatening injuries have brought to her.  Unable to return to work some eight months after being injured, she is in danger of losing her home.  D’Antoine brought the audience to its feet when she concluded by asking how the county government expects to deny collectively bargained improvements for workers, while offering tax breaks to corporations.  Renne told the wildly cheering crowd and D'Antoine that she would “never lose your house while I’m president of Local 1994!”

Support for Montgomery County public workers and the backstory of the issues is available here.