Five IBEW 1245 members and staff traveled to Washington DC to participate in the 50th anniversary celebration of the historic March on Washington.
The original march was the occasion of Martin Luther King Jr.’s famed “I Have a Dream” speech.
The trip, the brainchild of IBEW 1245 Business Manager Tom Dalzell and authorized by the IBEW 1245’s Executive Board, was part of the IBEW 1245 Leadership Development and Organizing Initiative. Led by staff organizers Jennifer Gray and Eileen Purcell, four of the five of the delegates who participated had not been born when the original March on Washington for Freedom and Jobs took place.
Fifty years later, tens of thousands poured into the Washington DC Mall, stretching from the Lincoln Memorial, past the reflecting pool to the Washington Monument. Thousands of union activists joined civic, community, faith, and civil rights organizations. People of every background, race, creed, and class came together to remember the struggle for equal rights and to recommit ourselves to continue the struggle for social and economic justice. Grandparents, parents and children participated in the historic event.
Speaker after speaker demanded a massive federally funded jobs-creation program, protection of hard won Voting Rights, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and passage of comprehensive immigration reform. Many speakers demanded a review of the “Stand Your Ground” laws and the disproportionate mass incarceration rates of people of color.
For Rosario Garcia, a line clearance tree trimmer from Manteca, CA the trip represented his first to the nation’s capital.
What an amazing sight to see. In 1963 marchers from all over took up signs in protest to make a change in society for human rights, equal rights , and labor rights for all. Today we honored the marchers of the yester years by grabbing our protest signs, our IBEW 1245 banner and chanting songs with thousands of other union members.
We marched a few miles from our motel to the Lincoln Memorial where the speech took place so long ago. Arriving early we were still only able to make it to the middle of the reflective pool due to the mass amount of people so eager to be part of this historical moment. We, 1245, took a spot under the large old growth trees that provided us with shade as we listened to the speeches, listened to the victory chants of organizations, of protesters, and of churches. It was a truly memorable moment in history to be engulfed by the peaceful crowd, to absorb the energy of everyone around. It is a moment in my life I will never forget.
A speaker started a chant, “We come here today to commemorate, we go back home to agitate.” I enjoyed that! I know we have come a great long way since 1963 but there is a lot to be done not just in racial issues but in labor issues.”
Logan Jonas, a PG&E Cable Splicer from San Francisco, reflected that he “eagerly accepted” the invitation to travel to Washington DC for the march, thinking that it would be a good opportunity to learn more about the labor movement.
I went with the expectation of feeling inspired, learning about the struggles of the 1960s and being a part of renewing the country’s energy to fight for jobs and freedom. What I didn’t expect was to find the power within myself to make connection and affect change in others. It was an honor to hear the stories of other’s struggles and triumphs. It was profoundly enlightening to know just how many different types and statuses of people had contributed to the March on Washington all those years ago. However, it was the sharing of my own story that moved me and those I had the chance to connect with the most. I actually left Washington DC with new friends and a new passion to connect with the labor movement on a more personal level.
Walter Carmier, a Central Office Technician at Frontier in El Grove stated:
I’m proud and energized by the fact that our labor union, IBEW 1245, and numerous other unions support and also stand not only for labor rights, but civil rights too. I have been reassured that we have strength in numbers if we march, rally & stand in unity. … We can make the change of our dream happen.
Carmier led by example. When he came upon a retired teacher from Queens, NY who had lost her group in the throng, Walter and our delegation accompanied her and trouble shot to make sure she found her way to her bus, which was parked outside of Washington DC. The former teacher and member of the United Teachers Association (UTA) expressed her gratitude to Walter and 1245 for standing in solidarity with her.
After the march, we visited the FDR Monument. Garcia was struck by a quote from President Franklin D. Roosevelt, etched on the stone, which read: “The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today, let us move forward with strong and active strength.”
“So let’s take a stand, let’s not move in reverse, “ Garcia said.