On Saturday, August 24, thousands of healthcare workers from New Jersey and up and down the East Coast will be boarding buses and travelling to Washington, D.C. to participate in the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
Healthcare workers say they will not only be celebrating the accomplishments of the civil rights and union movements, but also building a new movement to fulfill Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream. Dr. King called the healthcare union, 1199, the “authentic conscience of the labor movement,” and the union was one of the main organizers of the original 1963 march.
“I grew up in a family where I was raised to stand up for basic rights, it’s in my blood, and that’s why I attended the original march in ’63 with my husband and two young children,” said 87 year-old Monnie Callan, a retired social worker and 1199SEIU Retiree Board member. “I’m participating in the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington because no one’s talking about poverty, that our prison system unjustly locks up young people of color, and that states are taking away people’s right to vote.”
1199SEIU members in New Jersey are heading to DC with a renewed sense of urgency after the Supreme Court overturned key provisions of the Voting Rights Act in June, while Governor Christie recently mentioned that he has not yet read the decision. Amid a national outcry, New Jersey Republicans, including Gov. Christie and Senate candidate Steve Lonegan, have remained silent on the voting rights issue which threatens to reverse decades of civil rights gains made by people of color.
“We’ve got a big fight on our hands to protect rights for the next generation,” said Damon Brown, an 1199SEIU member and recreation therapist from Newark. “After many decades of progress, going backwards is not an option. I’m heading to Washington DC to continue Dr. King’s legacy, so that my children will be free to pursue their dreams.”
“Working families across New Jersey are facing not only one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation, but also a growing divide between the 1% and the rest,” said Milly Silva, Executive Vice President of 1199SEIU and Democratic candidate for Lt. Governor. “We need to expand economic opportunities for all people and create good-paying jobs; that is one step towards achieving Dr. King’s fifty-year old dream.”
“We have accomplished a lot, but we need to fulfill Dr. King’s dream of racial and economic justice, both of which are under assault in America today.” said 1199SEIU President George Gresham. “America has one of the worst rates of income inequality in the industrialized world, and the top 1% is hording more and more wealth while working people can barely make ends meet. The recent Supreme Court decision gutting the Voting Rights Act and the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer have shown that we are not living in a ‘post-racial’ society, and the national conversation about race urgently needs to move forward. All these issues are interconnected, and that’s why thousands of 1199SEIU members will be marching for good jobs, voting rights and justice.”
1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East is the largest and fastest-growing healthcare union in the nation, with over 400,000 members throughout New Jersey, New York State, Massachusetts, Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Florida. Our mission is to achieve quality care and good jobs for all.