“We are the storm”: Unionists promise solidarity at annual Cesar Chavez march

By Sheri Williams

Hundreds of union members and allies came together on March 31 for the 18th Annual Cesar Chavez March and Rally.

The event was organized by the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, Sacramento AFL- CIO (LCLAA). It began at Southside Park, where speakers gathered to talk about community, family and the many issues currently facing working people in Sacramento. Those issues included fair wages, access to housing and police use of force – including the shooting death of Stephon Clark by city police.

“Together we are stronger against the racist, corporate agenda that continues to create poverty, and create wealth for the 1 percent,” said organizers. “We are marching for farmworker rights, and the right to unionize, support boycotts, and strikes, support workers, support immigrants, human rights, environmental rights, LGBQT rights, BLM rights, homeless, healthcare, and our water.”

Dean Murakami, Vice President of the Sacramento Central Labor Council and President of the Los Rios College Federation of Teachers, was one of the speakers.

“We have a president who will rescind DACA,” said Murakami. “These kind of statements and actions are racist, stupid and immoral.”

California Community Colleges make up the largest system of higher education in the world, said Murakami. He pointed out that the system has helped countless Californians achieve their dreams.

He also spoke about gun control.

“What’s real stupid is that Donald Trump wants me to bring a gun to my classroom,” he continued. “We are here to fight for the rights of all immigrants, documented or undocumented.”

Yvonne Walker, president of SEIU 1000, also spoke.

“I’m proud to be here today to celebrate Cesar Chavez and his legacy,” Walker said. “The purpose of Local 1000 is to have the power necessary to give our members and all Californians a good life.”

Walker said there is a storm in California around issues including affordable housing and retirement with dignity, but working families are their own “storm’ with the power to effect change.

“The storm is a statewide housing crisis,” Walker said. “Our members are finding it impossible to find affordable housing.”

She highlighted how working-class members, including state workers, are being forced onto the street because of skyrocketing rents in Sacramento.

Walker also spoke about Black Lives Matter and the shooting of Stephon Clark.

“We have to prepare for the battle ahead,” Walker said. “We as warriors know that the storm is our power… we are prepared to take to the streets if necessary to make a California we can all be proud of … We are the storm that will resist every effort to divide us,” she said.

Earlier in the month, hundreds of union members also turned out for the March For Our Lives, a rally for gun control in the wake of the Parkland school shooting in Florida.

Union members also gathered early in the month to protest a visit by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in downtown Sacramento. Sessions spoke to a gathering of law enforcement professionals, describing California’s sanctuary policies for immigrants as dangerous and potentially illegal.

While Sessions spoke, hundreds marched outside his downtown venue, including local and state politicians.

“Immigrants are part of the fabric of Sacramento and California,” said Sacramento Central Labor Council leader Fabrizio Sasso. “I am the son of immigrants. We stand with all the working people of California to protect their families, their communities and their lives.”