Indiana teachers stood up for the middle class by standing shoulder to shoulder with thousands of fellow Hoosiers on March 10 in the biggest worker rally to hit the state capital in almost a generation.
Braving bitter winter conditions, crowds estimated at more than 10,000 gathered at the Statehouse in Indianapolis to show support for a progressive agenda and for state lawmakers who courageously have refused to rubber stamp a package of extremist bills that would silence the voices of public sector workers and undercut organized labor across the state. Currently, 40 Democratic representatives have temporarily left the state rather than allow Gov. Mitch Daniels and the GOP majority to bulldoze the bills into law, including a bill that puts teacher evaluation in the hands of outside agencies, denying teachers a voice in the process and giving the superintendent of public instruction the power to revoke a teacher's license at will.
The rally was the biggest demonstration of its kind since 1995, and Anderson teacher Marisa Graham helped set the tone for this historic event. She spoke passionately from the steps of the state Capitol about the contract her union and district had signed just a few days earlier—a case study in school improvement based on labor-management collaboration. This kind of collaboration is something that could be a relic of the past should a fringe agenda pushed by a handful of deep-pocketed political contributors succeed in silencing the voice of teachers and other middle-class Hoosiers.
Teachers "are not the privileged elite that some have made us out to be," Graham told the crowd (pictured at left). "We just want our voice heard—collective bargaining is our voice."
The March 10 rally was just the latest in a series of public events focused on the state capital and spearheaded by educators throughout Indiana. From Hammond to Anderson, AFT locals and members have been a stalwart, vocal and enthusiastic presence in these fights to protect the middle class from legislative attacks unfolding in the 2011 session—many of them sparked by corporate-supported, out-of-state interests that have instigated attacks across the country on the public sector, organized labor and working America.
These special interests and their political allies "have called a war on the middle class," Nancy J. Guyott, president of the Indiana State AFL-CIO, told the sea of activists assembled in the capital. "This is a battle that we must win."
A local TV news report had coverage of the rally.
More information about what's going on in Indiana, including video and news reports, is available here. [Mike Rose, AFL-CIO. Marissa Graham photo AP/Tom Strattman]
March 11, 2011