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Workers United at Rallies in MA Today

February 22, 2011

BOSTON - As American workers continue to fill the streets of Madison, Wisconsin, supporters in the Bay State prepare for rallies in Boston and Springfield today. The immediate issue in Wisconsin is a bill to diminish collective bargaining rights for public employees, and while this is happening in Madison, many see it as an attack on unions and the middle class as a whole.

Paul Toner, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA), the largest teachers' union in the state, says there is a reason people fought so hard to form unions: 40-hour work weeks, decent working conditions and decent pay.

"Collective bargaining right now is the only legal voice that public employee workers have in their workplace. It is the only way that we can have our issues heard and to have a say in how our work environment, our wages and our benefits are developed."

Supporters of the legislation to remove bargaining rights for union members cite budgetary reasons for the measure. Toner says that whether deliberate or not, there seems to be a push by big business to increase the bottom line, while middle-class workers are losing ground.

"People have pushed for deregulation and larger banking institutions and all these other efforts that are being made in the financial world. It has caused a squeeze on the middle class and fewer and fewer people are enjoying the benefits of the American economy."

Toner adds that while the Patrick administration and most state legislators in Massachusetts have been supportive of collective bargaining and union rights, the MTA and several other organized labor groups will be rallying today to show support for Wisconsin workers and to remind Bay Staters what could be at stake if workers begin to lose their rights.

Rallies today begin at 4 p.m. at The Massachusetts State House and at Springfield City Hall.

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - MA