Mellow music played in the background as union supporters and their opponents chanted across a divided, police monitored Beacon Street in front of the Massachusetts State House yesterday.
The rally was a reaction to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed ban on collective bargaining in the state. Massachusetts union workers were called upon by their unions to show support for government union members in Wisconsin.
Unions in attendance at yesterday’s rally included the Boston Public School Teachers Union, Service Employees International Union, Iron Workers Local Union No. 7 and Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers.
Union workers carried signs that bore logos such as “united we bargain, divided we beg”.
State senators and representatives were also present in support of the unions, as was the State Secretary of Labor Joanne F. Goldstein.
The rally also attracted the attention of many union opponents, who stood in front of Boston Common and protested many of the pro-union speakers.
Harvard union members said they felt that the event was important to attend because many of the issues facing the Wisconsin unions feel very close to home.
“The pressures on any employer are the same,” said HUCTW member Lesley A. Schoenfeld, a Harvard Law School Library Assistant.
She stressed that unions are important because they give workers an opportunity for a voice, which they would not otherwise have.
Adrienne Landau, another HUCTW member, echoed Schoenfeld’s view on the importance of unions, saying that employers often try and save money by “not giving people the power of negotiation.”
The speakers at the event argued that unions are the backbone of the modern economy.
“Why would [Walker] stab a knife into the heart of the economy?” one of the speakers asked the audience. The question was answered with an eruption of cheers.
While union supporters outnumbered their opponents, they faced a vocal opposition.
The crowd gathered on the other side of the Beacon Street and held signs with slogans such as “Labor Yes, Unions No” and chants, including “You work for us.”
“It’s time to get tougher on the unions,” said Earl H. Sholley, a Mass. Republican who ran against Congressman Barney Frank.
—Staff writer Mercer R. Cook can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.