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“This Is Our Selma Moment” - Unions Join Poor People’s Campaign To ‘Bust The Filibuster’

Published Wednesday, July 28, 2021
by Steve Wishnia/
“This Is Our Selma Moment” - Unions Join Poor People’s Campaign To ‘Bust The Filibuster’

(PHOENIX, ARIZONA) - The Poor People’s Campaign held actions from sit-ins to small rallies at U.S. Senators’ offices in more than 30 states on Monday (July 26th), demanding that they enact a four-point program of abolishing the filibuster, raising the National Minimum Wage to $15 an hour, fully restoring the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and passing the For the People Act, an expansive voting-rights measure originated by the late U.S. Representative John Lewis.

In Phoenix, 39 people - including the Reverend Jesse Jackson and Poor People’s Campaign Co-Director - the Reverend Dr. William Barber, were arrested in a sit-in outside the office of U.S. Senator Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat who has opposed ending the filibuster and raising the Minimum Wage to $15.

In Arizona, Reverend Barber said during an online rally later that night, nearly half the workforce makes less than $15.

In San Francisco, protesters outside Democratic U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein’s local office held up a banner reading: “Sen. Feinstein: Bust the Filibuster.”

In Portland, Maine, four people were arrested in a sit-in at Republican U.S. Senator Susan Collins’ office after staffers refused to answer whether she supported the four demands. 

“I’ve worked at McDonald’s for eighteen years and I still don’t make a living wage,” Portland Protester Mindy Bergeron-Lawrence told the on-line rally.

The actions were leading up to a 27-mile march from Georgetown, Texas to Austin over the next five days, a rally in on Austin July 31st, and a large march in Washington August 2nd.

The Georgetown-Austin march is intended “to nationalize what’s going on in Texas,” Barber said. “Texas is the least insured, hardest to vote in, and most underpaid state in the Nation.”

“Voting rights are connected to economic justice,” he emphasized, quoting Dr. Martin Luther King.

Named after the Economic Justice Project Dr. King was trying to launch when he was assassinated in 1968, the Poor People’s Campaign is consciously modeled on the 1960s non-violent Civil Rights Movement.

Reverend Barber’s rhetorical cadences and the quieter righteousness of the Reverend Liz Theoharis, its other Co-Director, echo the movement’s alliance of Southern Black Preachers and White Northern Clergy.

Theoharis said the Georgetown-to-Austin march was styled after the Selma-to-Montgomery march of 1965 that led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act.

Georgetown, now a suburb of Austin, was a Ku Klux Klan stronghold in the 1920s, but also the first place where Klan Members were successfully prosecuted in Texas. 

“This is our Selma moment,” the campaign declared.

International Union of Painters & Allied Trades (IUPAT) Members joined the Phoenix march, and UNITE HERE Members turned out for a rally in Boston.  The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and Communications Workers of America (CWA) also participated.

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