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AFL-CIO Now

Tens of Thousands March for Voting Rights

Marvin Bing, a member of the AFL-CIO Special Committee on Labor-Community Partnerships, sends us this report.

Tens of thousands of labor and civil rights activists on Saturday marched from the New York offices of Koch Industries, whose owners have supported restrictive voting legislation modeled by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a right-wing think tank funded by brothers David and Charles Koch. Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), who took part in the event, put it this way:

You can’t accomplish anything if you’re not prepared to fight.

The coalition of labor, civil rights and community organizations marked Dec. 10, International Human Rights Day, with the Stand for Freedom march and rally where they voted to roll back new voting rules passed in several states.

Some of the laws passed in more than a dozen states around the country include requiring photo IDs at the ballot box and making it harder to vote absentee and vote early. The laws primarily affect low-income people, African Americans, Latinos,  students and the elderly. Earlier this year, as anti-labor laws swept state legislatures dominated by Republicans backed by the billionaire Koch brothers, who together own most of Koch Industries, some of these same legislatures passed laws designed to suppress voter turnout, especially targeting African Americans and immigrants.

“Voting rights are being challenged all across the United States,” said George Gresham, president of 1199 SEIU Health Care Workers East.

People have died for the right to vote. We can’t just sit by and let our rights be taken from us. We will fight back.

Other big corporations also are funding passage of these restrictive voting measures, including Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola and AT&T. Koch is one of the nation’s largest privately held companies with business interests that include refining, chemicals and commodities trading.

NAACP President Ben Jealous, UFT President Michael Mulgrew, the Rev. Al Sharpton, Gresham and NAACP New York President Hazel Dukes locked arms and led the march on Madison Avenue south to a plaza near the United Nations in honor of the UN’s Universal Declartion of Human Rights, passed on Dec. 10, 1948.

Voting is a human right, and human rights are sacred rights.

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