Jesse Jackson backs local union drive at 3 hospitals

Civil rights leader asks workers to `draw the line'

January 21, 2004|By Stacey Hirsh | Stacey Hirsh,SUN STAFF

The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson came to a Baltimore church packed with local hospital employees last night and called on them to invoke change and battle for workers' rights.

"We've got to fight back," he told the crowd at a rally for the Service Employees International Union District 1199E-DC in Baltimore. "What is your insult level? At what point do you draw the line?"

Jobs are disappearing from every state, American workers can't compete with their counterparts overseas, and there must be a renewed commitment to even the playing field for American workers, Jackson said in an interview before his talk. The rally was held at City Temple of Baltimore on Eutaw Street.

The crowd of more than 100 people clearly was moved by Jackson's visit, greeting him with a standing ovation and chanting back when he shouted, "save the workers, save their families."

The rally also came as the SEIU negotiates a new contract with three local hospitals: Johns Hopkins, where it represents about 1,700 workers, and the Greater Baltimore Medical Center and Sinai Hospital, where it represents 450 at each facility.

In his speech, Robert Moore, president of SEIU 1199E-DC, said the union wants to launch a campaign to raise service workers' wages in Baltimore to middle-class wages.

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