BLAINE, Wash. - Union members from Washington, Oregon and British Columbia say if they chant loud enough this weekend, they might just be heard in Wisconsin. Their Saturday "International Solidarity" rally in the border town of Blaine is meant to show that they intend to oppose any attack on collective bargaining rights - whether it's in a another state or another country.
Canada and the United States face similar budget-balancing pressures. Jim Sinclair, president of the British Columbia Federation of Labour, says the only power some workers have is the right to bargain.
"It's about whether or not people have a democratic right to say 'no' on the job - to say, 'No, this is unsafe' - and to have an adult relationship with their employers. To be able to sit down and negotiate how they're going to work with their employers. This is about our whole way of life."
The Apr. 2 rally is to show support for workers in other countries facing cutbacks and economic crises, and also for Wisconsin public employees. Their collective bargaining rights were upheld on Thursday, at least temporarily, in court. Jeff Johnson, president of the Washington State Labor Council, says what's going on in Wisconsin has potential consequences for every worker, union member or not.
"It's a turning point in the history of our country, as well as the history of the labor movement - and anyone who's complacent out there is missing the boat."
Tom Chamberlain is president of the Oregon AFL-CIO, in a state where the governor supports collective bargaining and spoke at the last labor rally there. He says it's up to the unions to make the recent publicity and momentum into something positive.
"The attention on unions and what they do is at the highest level, probably in two or three decades. Folks are understanding what unions do and how important they are as a check to a corporate agenda."
The International Solidarity rally starts at 2:00 p.m. at Peace Arch State Park, Blaine.