Sen. Arlen Specter
of Protest Letters
By Ann Belser
April 15, 2009 – Dewitt Walters, of the United Steelworkers, instructs union members and supporters to march two-by-two on the sidewalk along the Boulevard of the Allies yesterday as they walk to Sen. Arlen Specter’s Pittsburgh office to deliver petitions supporting the Employee Free Choice Act. Union members rallied at the USW headquarters before the march.
Local labor organizations figured maybe 50 people would want to come along to hand-deliver thousands of letters, written in favor of pending legislation, to U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter’s office.
Then 300 people filed out of the United Steelworkers Building yesterday and headed up the Boulevard of the Allies. They made it about a block before they were stopped by police for conducting a march without a permit.
For about 20 minutes the marchers and the police held still, the officers trying to keep the marchers on the sidewalks at the corner of the boulevard and Market Street, while they sorted out how the crowd could proceed.
Jack Shea, the head of the Allegheny County Labor Council, said it was just proof that there was a high level of emotion regarding the Employee Free Choice Act, legislation promoted by organized labor that would allow workers to organize more easily and end employers’ ability to put off ratifying a contract for years.
Ultimately, the crowd was allowed to pass, with a police escort, as marchers stayed on the sidewalks and mostly obeyed the traffic signals.
For their trouble, Mr. Specter received about 12,000 letters, many of them hand-written, from union and nonunion workers who support the bill and urge Mr. Specter to support it as well.
Mr. Specter was not in his office when the marchers arrived, but a staffer said he would make sure the senator received the correspondence.
Ann Belser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1699.