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Unions remember King with protest at the capital

By James Call

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wfsu/local-wfsu-961442.mp3

Tallahassee, FL – More than 80 people gathered in a Tallahassee city park across from the state capitol Monday and invoked the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King to show solidarity with union workers. James Call reports it was one of more than 20 rallies scheduled across the state of Florida, organized by the AFL-CIO, to call

Labor created a "We Are One" website to organize rallies nationwide to show support for public sector workers in Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio and Florida, states were Republican lawmakers claim a voter mandate to balance state budgets without raising taxes. The gathering in Tallahassee was organized by Amil Georgi of the American Federation of state county municipal employees.

"All these different people here, women's rights, labor, civil rights, NAACP, everyone has to come together as Dr. Martin Luther King wanted to fight the oppressive forces coming from the state capital."

Monday was the 43rd anniversary of King's assassination. Union members, students, preachers, and retirees, 25 in all, read a section of the speech King delivered in Memphis.

"That's all this whole thing is about. We are not engaging in any negative protest and any negative arguments with anybody."

The gathering, which included members of eight separate unions, was to protest policy changes and budget proposals before the state legislature. Health care advocates, PTA representatives and Sheriff deputies have descended onto the capitol to protest budget cuts and changes to the pension plan for public sector employees. Speaking in February, Senate President Mike Haridopolos said he expected groups to protest the policy changes the Legislature was going to implement."

What Madison talked about when he helped write the constitution was the idea of competing interest groups. Historically in Tallahassee you usually had the public sector groups dominate. Now you are seeing a large advocate for taxpayers and that is what Madison talked about in the constitution and its one of our founding principles, competing interest groups.

King went to Memphis in 1968 to rally sanitation workers, striking for the right to organize. A family spokesman said his widow would have approved of linking the anniversary with the labor disputes that have erupted this year. Florida A&M Professor Dr. Charles Evans was in Naval officer training school in Pensacola when King was killed. Evans is past president of the Tallahassee chapter of the NAACP.

"Strongly consistent with the ideas of Dr. King he worked so hard for in the civil rights movement. And so I'm honored to be a part of the movement here. It is to bring to the public and legislators and governor is that please do not do anything crazy again."

Lawmakers say the proposed cuts and policy changes are needed to close a 3.8 billion dollar budget shortfall. Democrats complained the Republican controlled legislature refuses to consider raising any taxes, closing any loopholes or removing any exemptions to raise more money. Evans who has been involved in Civil Rights organizations his entire adult life. And although he begins his comment with talk of an old paradigm he said he believes the conservative movement of today stresses different values than the conservative movement that was active when King was alive.

"There's an old paradigm as we say, those that have can get a little bit more and those who have not will have to pay more and so Haridopolos and Cannon are way off in their thinking. And that's the ultra conservative mind set once again. It is not designed to help the masses but to help the select few."
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Both House Speaker Dean Cannon and Senate President Mike Haridopolos say their top priority is to close a 3.8 billion dollar budget shortfall without any tax increase. By the end of this week both the Senate and House are expected to have passed their budget proposals. Lawmakers will then spend the next four weeks resolving the differences between the two spending plans.