Today’s news:

SE Queens fights for workers’ rights at Jamaica rally

Dozens of transit workers and community leaders gathered in downtown Jamaica Monday evening to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the anniversary of his death and continue his fight for equal rights for hardworking, blue-collar residents.

The event, which was hosted by the NAACP and Southeast Queens County Young Democrats, was one of dozens of ´╗┐protests taking place across the nation that took aim at attacks against the nation’s labor unions. King was assassinated in Memphis on April 4, 1968, while he was in the city to negotiate a deal for sanitation workers who went on strike for higher wages.

Leroy Gadsden, president of the Jamaica NAACP branch, said recent state budget negotiations in many parts of the country particularly in Wisconsin, have kept the unions out of the picture and taken away their collective bargaining rights.´╗┐

“A lot of people have benefited from the labor movement,” he said.

Adrienne Felton, an executive board member of the Southeast Queens County Young Democrats, agreed.

“It’s really sad after all these years ... history is trying to repeat itself,” she said. “[The rally] is a collective effort and it should send a strong message.”

The rally, which included members of several transit unions, including Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1056 located in Rosedale, started at the bus depot at Merrick Boulevard and 89th Avenue and continued down the avenue till Parsons Boulevard. The nearly 70 protesters then made their way to the Grace Episcopal Church on Jamaica Avenue for a musical reception.

ATU Local 1056 member Mark Henry, who drives a bus, said he has been upset at the large amount of cuts that have affected New York City transit over the years. Several bus lines in southeast Queens were eliminated last year by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which not only disrupted the lives of the hundreds of commuters who used those buses, but also the drivers, service members and other workers who made a living from those buses.

“We have service cuts that are affecting our community and no one cares in Albany,” he said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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