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Union members rally against legislation at Oklahoma Capitol

They oppose Republican-backed measures that would repeal collective bargaining rights for certain city employees, change how police and firefighter union labor disputes are handled and take away certain due process rights of teachers.
BY JOHN ESTUS jestus@opubco.com Modified: April 4, 2011 at 6:15 pm •  Published: April 4, 2011
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More than 400 union supporters rallied outside the Capitol today in opposition to labor legislation they criticized as anti-worker union busting.

State lawmakers this year are considering Republican-backed measures that would repeal collective bargaining rights for certain city employees, change how police and firefighter union labor disputes are handled and take away certain due process rights granted to teachers.

Union opposition to the proposals has increased lately.

“We cannot sit on the couch and watch our state and our jobs and our rights be stolen from us any longer,” Oklahoma City emergency dispatcher Shannon Nealy told the crowd. “We must take action.”

Nealy, chair of the Oklahoma City chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, was joined by hundreds of public and private sector labor union members at the rally. They waved union flags in gusting winds and carried signs that read, “Union Power,” “We Are One” and “Fighting for The Middle Class.”

After the rally, hundreds of union members streamed into the Capitol to meet with legislators.

Labor and civil rights activists are staging similar rallies today in all 50 states as a tribute to Martin Luther King Jr., who was slain 43 years ago today while in Memphis, Tenn., supporting unionized city sanitation workers.

The rallies are also serving as protests against plans in several states to roll back the powers of public employee unions as governments try to cut spending to plug budget shortfalls.