AFSCME Members Brought Union Strength to Women’s Marches in California

Millions of Americans who rallied this past weekend in solidarity with the Women’s March on Washingtonshowed that the Trump administration is in for a tough challenge if it tries to infringe on women’s rights or deprive us of our freedom to stand up for justice and dignity for all.

The women, men and children who participated in marches from Washington, D.C. and New York City to Los Angeles and Seattle said they were inspired by the droves of people who showed up to peacefully protest not just the attacks on women but the very real threat to  diversity and all the progress that has been made to protect the middle class.

As protesters took to the streets in many cities large and small throughout the country, AFSCME was right there in the middle of the action, especially in California.

Council 57 members were spotted at marches in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Walnut Creek, Sacramento and Eureka.

Local 2620 member Maia Downs, an adoption specialist, was one of the AFSCME members who participated in the 750,000-person march in Los Angeles. Downs said she marched to protest the gender pay gap in state civil service.

“AFSCME jobs are largely female-dominated, and workers like me experience gender discrimination,” Downs said. “It seems like Trump is totally ignorant to the fact that he often condones gender discrimination in his remarks. He needs to get on board with the issue, and California lawmakers need to do more to include state civil servants in fair pay laws."

Local 1684 member Shannon Kenney, an eligibility supervisor, took part in the march in Eureka alongside our union sisters and brothers and others to stand up for human rights, democracy and diversity.

"I thought it was very important for AFSCME to be there because we are the backbone of this county, and we wanted to send the message that everybody is worth fighting for," she said. "We now have someone in power who is trying to divide us. But like a sign said at the march, he tried to bury us with his words but he didn't know we were seeds," Kenney said. "We are all going to grow stronger."

Local 1684 had a big part in organizing the rally in Eureka, which drew more than 7,000 people—the largest march in Humboldt County history, according to local newspapers.

In his remarks to the crowd, Local 1684 President Brandon Sisk encouraged people to never quit when it comes to holding elected leaders accountable—both on the national and local level.

“There’s work to be done to ensure we have access to affordable, quality healthcare, which includes reproductive care and does not call pregnancy a pre-existing condition,” Sisk said to cheers from the crowd. “We have work that needs to be done when it comes to equal pay in the workplace, and unions need your support for that. We have work that needs to be done to ensure that there is quality, affordable access to education for all our children. We need to keep up the good fight.”

Keeping up the fight for working families is what AFSCME President Lee Saunders meant when he wrote in a recent op-ed: “We have to harness the tremendous progressive energy in these marches, bringing it back to our hometowns to build power and make change.”

That moment to build power and make change seems like it is already upon as the Trump administration has already shown it wants to attack working families.

On his first day in office, Trump signed an executive order blocking an Obama administration policy that would have reduced the cost of mortgages for millions of working families seeking to a buy a home. He also issued an executive order making it harder for federal public service workers to do their jobs for the American people, and he reinstated a policy barring recipients of U.S. foreign aid from promoting abortion as a method of family planning.

Actions like these call for all working people to build on the momentum from the Women’s March well past a one-day protest.

“If you’re marching this weekend, make sure when you go home that you talk to your family and neighbors and start building a groundswell,” Saunders said. “Carry a sign on Saturday, but organize and mobilize on Monday. We need more than catharsis; we need community action.”