Grand Rapids union rally on International Workers’ Day



GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Promoting the need for strong unions to protect American workers, supporters of several labor groups in the Grand Rapids area gathered on Saturday to celebrate International Workers’ Day.

The rally took place next to the Spirit of Solidarity monument at Pearl Street NW and Front Avenue, near the Gerald R. Ford Museum.

The monument is a tribute to the “Great Furniture Strike of 1911” in Grand Rapids, which generally led to better wages and hours of work for workers.

Officials from Local 26 of the International Theater Employees Alliance (IATSE), Local 836 of the Amalgamated Transport Union and the Kent-Ionia Labor Council were among the representatives who spoke during the event on Saturday.

Related: Amazon Alabama Worker Organizing Efforts Boost Support Rally in Grand Rapids

Tom Burke, a member of IATSE, said one of the goals of the rally was to promote the Protection of the Right to Organize Act – a national bill that would give unions new strength.

The bill passed in the United States House, but it is likely to have a much more difficult path in the Senate.

“In the United States, we are fighting to keep unions functioning and organizing,” he said. “There are a lot of labor laws that we need to reform that are opposed to us.”

Richard Jackson, president of ATU Local 836, said he recently wrote a letter to organizers of an effort to unionize an Amazon facility in Bessemer, Alabama. The effort failed in a workers’ vote that was more than two to one against it.

“I remember what it was like to be locked in a fight that in all likelihood was not winnable, but necessary nonetheless,” he said.

He described the failure to organize in Alabama as a “loss with lessons.”

“No organizational effort is ever wasted,” he said. “The bosses will never back down, and neither should we.”

Related: Stagehands rallies for $ 600 federal unemployment benefit extension in Grand Rapids

Ryan Letts, chairman of the Kent-Ionia Labor Council, said 107 counties around the world celebrate International Workers’ Day, also known as May 1.

“This day is to remember our struggles, the struggles of the brave individuals who came before us and to revitalize ourselves in this fight, to push this needle forward,” he said.

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