NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – Thousands of people filled City Hall Park Saturday morning in a show of solidarity with union workers in Wisconsin.
As they waived signs reading “tax the rich” and “save the middle class,” New Yorkers rallied in support of those protesting a Wisconsin bill that would strip nearly all public employees of their collective bargaining rights.
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Keith Henderson, a city maintenance worker, told 1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg that unions have always given back.
“We’re willing to make sacrifices as long as everybody else makes sacrifices,” he said. Others went as far as to say they believed the situation was a case of class warfare.
The demonstrators said they feared the end of collective bargaining for all workers if Wisconsin’s governor succeeds in an effort to weaken unions for public servants.
“We’re reducing American workers’ wages to a global, Third World wage,” one woman said, “and it makes the people at the top wealthier.”
“Industry, business — they don’t want to help us. They want to keep us down. I believe it is class warfare,” another man said.
Congressman Anthony Weiner was among a group of lawmakers at Saturday’s rally. Weiner proclaimed that labor unions were “under siege” and that “the middle class is disappearing in this country.”
“This really is a fight for the future of our country,” he said.
“We owe it to America…unions make us strong and we’re not going to take this lying down,” Congressman Charles Rangel said.
And although many of those at the rally had never been to Wisconsin, they wanted the world to know they stood hand-in-hand with union workers there.
“We’re here to rally to save the American dream. The ability of average people to work for a living and earn…that allows them to live a dignified life. We’re here to save that because it is fast stripping away,” Arlene Geiger told WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall.
Another woman, who was not a union worker, said New Yorkers should stand with those in Wisconsin as a matter of principle.
“Collective rights, I mean, it’s the basis of our democracy in a lot of ways. But democracy is of the people, by the people and for the people and that’s what the unions stand for,” she said.
John Duffy, the President of the Utility Workers Union of America, said the whole situation was “outrageous” and “all about politics.”
“It’s not about the budget…when you create phony budget shortfalls by giving tax breaks to the rich,” he said.
“If the unions go — that’s it for this country. That’s it. There will be no worker protection. There will be nothing,” Sharon Cacioppo told CBS 2′s Christine Sloan.
The Wisconsin protests began Feb. 15, and the crowds peaked at 70,000 last Saturday, a few thousand of which were tea party counter-demonstrators. Smaller sympathy demonstrations have sprouted elsewhere nationwide, including one in Trenton on Friday.
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