Blog: Defending Unemployment Benefits with GA School Workers

By 9to5 Atlanta member Susan Landrum

Everywhere we go… People want to know…

It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon – a perfect Saturday. The sun was warm and Atlanta turned on all of its spring charm. In other parts of the city, people were headed to neighborhood festivals and I headed to march with Atlanta Jobs with Justice, 9to5, local unions, and student and local activists to defend unemployment benefits for Georgia’s school workers.  I found the mighty crowd gathered on Martin Luther King Dr. and was immediately struck by its excited energy. Stickers and signs were handed out. The drums, sax and clarinet were humming along and getting us riled up. We chanted, we sang, and we marched down MLK, an impressive gathering of diverse voices and bodies, walking together to claim justice.

Who we are…

We are a group of students, workers and activists that want a world where people who work are given what they are owed. This march was a victory over bureaucracy and politics that sought to take money from at least 4,000 hardworking school employees who make it possible for Georgia’s children to get to school, to be fed and nourished and to get a quality education. It was a fight but by coming together and putting pressure on Mark Butler, Georgia’s Labor Commissioner, 8 million dollars of unemployment benefits will be paid to school workers as a result of the organizing of Atlanta Jobs with Justice, local unions and student activists. However, while this was a victory, Butler is already talking about withholding these benefits in 2014. The purpose of the march was to celebrate but also make it known that we will not go quietly and we will not stop holding our politicians accountable for full and fair employment. We must continue to advocate for justice and lift our voices together to make sure school workers get paid year-round for the all-important work they do.

We’re the mighty, mighty union!

There was no place I would rather have been on that gorgeous Saturday afternoon. Walking through a city I have lived in all my life next to dedicated school workers – some of whom might have been a part of my education in the Atlanta Public Schools – was a great honor. I want to hold our state and our city to a higher standard. I want people to know that unions do exist in Georgia and their members are actively seeking justice. We are organized and committed to fair, just employment opportunities in this town, in this state, and in this country. We will march many more miles, sing many more songs and unite many more voices to remind our politicians who we are and what we expect of them.

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