Thousands of citizens, union members, environmentalists and faith groups are right now marching in the streets of Chicago to protest ALEC, or the American Legislative Exchange Council, meeting at the Palmer House in the Loop. The size of the crowd forced police to close Monroe Street, a major artery, and moments ago we learned they arrested several protesters.
The massive demonstration follows a 10,000-person Moral Monday protest in Asheville, N.C., two days ago. Angry North Carolinians denounced the Legislature’s passage of ALEC’s agenda. Politicians beholden to corporations and billionaires raised taxes on the middle class, outsourced public education, cut education spending, slashed unemployment benefits and restricted voting for citizens not likely to vote for them.
In Chicago, ALEC-supported politicians are enjoying the luxuries offered by the Palmer House and working on ways to destroy the middle class. Their agenda this year includes crushing unions, keeping the minimum wage at its current level, outsourcing toll roads and education, banning prohibitions on genetically modified food and eliminating licensing requirements for truck drivers and other professions.
In short, they’re like a baby with a nail gun aimed at working people.
From early accounts the protest is large, energetic and loud. Watch them here shout “Shame on You”:
You can follow the action on Twitter at #ALECinChicago and #ALECExposed. Here’s what tweeters are telling us is happening:
Casey Aldridge @CaseyJAldridge 4m
RT @thegirlone: Get up, get down, Chicago is a union town. #ALECExposed #noALEC #ALECinChicago
Stephanie Pistachio @supasuga 3m
Raise Up MKE chants: Up With Black Youth, Down With ALEC! #noALEC #ALECinChicago #RaiseUpMKE http://instagram.com/p/cww0jbs8LQ/
Fair Trade Ervin @fairtrade_ervin 5m
THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE! #ALECinChicago #ALECEXPOSED #NOALEC pic.twitter.com/W6wVL8wmca
Isaac Wright @Izac_Wright 6m
MT “@ALECexposed: ALEC at 40: Turning Back the Clock on Prosperity and Progress http://www.prwatch.org/node/12205/ #ALECexposed #ALECinChicago” #arleg
Photos are showing members of UAW, AFSCME and ATU. We’re quite certain many other unions are represented. Micah Uetricht at The Nation explains why:
Targeting ALEC would certainly be in labor’s self-interest: anti-worker and anti-union legislation has been a central focus of the group, with model legislation that includes right-to-work laws, repealing the minimum wage and opposing future minimum wage increases, and other pro-business labor laws. Their fingerprints have been on a number of high-profile legislative battles on labor issues in recent years, including Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s 2011 Budget Repair Bill that led to the state capitol’s occupation, Michigan Republican Gov. Rick Snyder’s right-to-work legislation late last year, and anti-worker (as well as anti-choice) legislation in North Carolina behind the state’s Moral Mondays protests.
In 2013 alone, at least 117 bills resembling the group’s “model bills” on worker compensation and organizing rights have been introduced in state legislatures around the country. Their bills attacking public sector unions have caught the attention of the American Federation of State, Municipal, and County Employees (AFSCME), who have decried the organization in the past and are also encouraging members members to join the protests.
Finally, we’ll leave you for now with this great photo: