On Saturday, Hartford joined other cities across the nation as it hosted a Rally to Save the American Dream– a show of support for public employees in Wisconsin, 12,000 of whom are expected to receive layoffs as part of the Wisconsin governor’s plan to blackmail his state’s public workers into surrendering their bargaining rights. People gathered in major cities, including Juneau, Honolulu, Austin, Atlanta, Boise, Charleston, Chicago, Madison, Philadelphia, and New York. Organizers say that 30,000 people representing 66 cities, including every state capital, were planning to rally yesterday.
Before the rally, approximately 445 people RSVP’d for the rally on MoveOn.org and another 65 committed to it on Facebook. The rally attendance reflected the projected number of participants, and one source estimated the crowd at 700. There were about five counter-protesters at the State Capitol entrance.
The rally included many co-sponsors, including MoveOn.org, SEIU, AFL-CIO, AFSCME, 350.org, Working Families, Sierra Club, Media Matters Action Network, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and Catholics United.
The purpose of the rally was to show solidarity for public employees in Wisconsin, but the signs and chants raised interesting questions. There were calls to “tax the rich,” something that sounds empty to those who can only aspire to achieve middle class status. It seems appropriate somehow that the calls to “save the middle class” were directed at the opulence of the State Capitol, while activists’ backs were literally turned to one of Hartford’s poorest neighborhoods. One wonders if there is a way to increase the middle class by decreasing existing poverty as well as the number of millionaires.
While many of these public employees are probably living middle class lifestyles, something to note is that being a public employee does not guarantee this. These days, it’s not uncommon for employees (in all sectors) to be part-time, given just under the hours that’d allow workers to receive benefits, let alone something like a middle class paycheck.