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Where Does Labor Go From Here?

by Steve England


In the fight for workers' rights—which is synonymous with civil rights—how far do we go? Some would say, "As far as necessary, and by any means." And some would say, "Only as far as making your point to the powers that be," in this case Chapel Hill's Town Council. It would be good if the latter were all that were necessary. Realistically, at that point, the fight has just begun.

On April 6th, 1998, the Black Public Works Association (BPWA) presented its third annual Freedom Budget to the Town Council. According to all reports it was one of the strongest presentations ever brought before the council.

What made this budget presentation different from all others was the collaboration of Public Works, Housing, and Transit workers in association with civic-minded UNC students. This coalition was made up of many different campus organizations and many Chapel Hill citizens.

In this budget session, all three departments portrayed to the uninformed council members the inequities that are regularly forced upon us Chapel Hill workers. Not only did we project some of the oppression felt by town workers, we also gave practical solutions to them. These solutions include changes in policy, in the process of giving raises, and in hiring and promotions. Some proposals push for changes in management personnel and/or the education of management staff in workers' rights.

But the question still looms: Where do we go from here? Or, How far do we go with this struggle? I personally concur with the answer given at the beginning of this article: "As far as necessary and by any means necessary," as long as the means are peaceful and within the law.

This fight must continue to grow—and in epic proportions. It must not be confined to the workplace but should flow into our everyday existence. This fight should take on the disproportionately harsh treatment of African Americans by law enforcement, the Judiciary System, and the prison system. It should work to rescue Affirmative Action.

This fight should touch on every statement in our Constitution which declares that every man is created equal with no exceptions.

The first step to a remedy for the injustices and inequities is to recognize the wrongs that have been imposed on the original residents of this country and to all other races of color which now reside here. To bring about such a change we must continue to organize. We must educate the oppressed as well as our oppressors. We must commit to stand against any and all injustice and any action that carries a unfairly affects one group as opposed to others.

The fight must continue—until all people are equal.


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