A coalition of labor, civil rights and religious groups rallied in front of the General Assembly offices today to call for an end to North Carolina's ban on public employees' collective bargaining and to resist balancing the state budget at the expense of public sector jobs and programs.
The rally drew about 100 supporters who listened to several speakers representing labor, churches and the NAACP, staff writer Craig Jarvis reports. About two dozen people staged a counter-protest across across the street in Bicentennial Plaza, shouting and chanting throughout the rally.
Both sides cited the public employees' union standoff in Wisconsin, where that state's governor has proposed to reduce public employee's pay and benefits and to limit their collective-bargaining rights.
"In North Carolina and the rest of the Southern states, we are denied collective bargaining," Saladin Muhammad of the International Workers Justice Campaign and UE Local 150 North Carolina Public Service Workers Union. "That came out of a period called Jim Crow."
Coalition members filed into the Legislative Building to present copies of the call for a repeal on the bargaining prohibition to the offices of Sen. Phil Berger, pro tem of the Senate and to Rep. Tom Tillis, speaker of the house. Tillis briefly greeted rally leaders and agreed to schedule a time for a more substantial meeting.
North Carolina and Virginia are the only states that have a complete ban on public employee collective bargaining.
Randy Dye of Pittsboro, one of the counter-protesters, said the network of Triangle conservative organizations only heard about the rally 24 hours earlier, and didn't have enough time to mount a larger presence. "We wanted to face off with them," he said.
The conservative protesters carried signs reading "Unions -- Too Big, Too Costly" and "Wisconsin: Pass the Bill." They shouted "freeloaders!" and chanted "U.S.A"
The other side countered with their own chants, including "People's budget! People's budget!"