AFT Stands with Striking British Public Employees

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A spirited AFT contingent joined scores of demonstrators outside the British Embassy in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 30 to show solidarity with public employees in the United Kingdom who are fighting to keep politicians from tapping hard-earned government pensions to cover bad bets made by a reckless financial services industry.

Rally at British EmbassyAFT executive vice president Francine Lawrence, center, joins union activists and demonstrators at the British Embassy.

The Washington demonstration was held on the same day that as many as 2 million teachers, nurses and other public employees across the United Kingdom participated in a one-day strike, protesting government plans to force public employees to pay more for their pensions and to work longer before they can qualify for retirement. Led by AFT executive vice president Francine Lawrence, the union activists joined demonstrators from several AFL-CIO affiliates, other labor groups and the Occupy D.C. movement. Together, they walked picket lines, chanted and waved signs to show their support for colleagues across the pond and to call for the removal of Prime Minister David Cameron, the Conservative leader who is pressing the attack on public sector pensions. Similar pro-worker rallies were held at British consulates in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Orlando, Fla., and San Francisco.

"In the United States, we know a little something about attacks on public employees," Lawrence said. "Whether it's in the United States or Britain—or anywhere for that matter—it's just plain wrong to scapegoat hardworking public servants for an economic crisis that's not their fault."

Leaders of the Washington, D.C., demonstration delivered a letter to embassy officials voicing stateside support for striking British workers. Prior to the one-day strike, all three national AFT officers sent letters of support to the U.K. labor organizations spearheading the massive job action. "Working men and women did not lead us into our current financial crisis; the blame squarely rests with politicians who recklessly undid years of regulatory protections and to financial managers who gambled with exotic and obscure investments," the AFT officers wrote. The attack on public employee pensions in the United Kingdom constitute nothing more than efforts to "shift the blame for economic hard times from politicians to public servants." [Mike Rose/photo by Larry Specht]

December 1, 2011