NEW BEDFORD — As part of a national day of action calling for more union jobs in America, union workers of the New Bedford area gathered at the steps of City Hall on Monday night to participate in the Working People's Day of Action Rally.

The rally took place while the U.S. Supreme Court was listening to oral arguments in the Janus vs. AFSCME case, as intended. Event organizers call the high profile case "a lawsuit driven by anti-worker CEO's and billionaires to divide working people and limit our power in numbers." More specifically, organizers and union members fear that depending on how the court rules, their rights to collective bargaining through the formation of unions may be infringed.

President of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO Steven Tolman pumped up a large crowd that turned out for the event, calling the court case, “a patent of the right-wing billionaires and millionaires doing whatever they want and not playing by the rules.”

“Just a couple of years ago we heard about this case called Citizens United. Now the same court that's going to screw us today is the same court that said, “corporations are people,” and they can donate unlimited money to elections,” Tolman bellowed. “This is the law of the land based on this court's decision. But, I can tell you something brothers and sisters. There's something wrong in America when they want to do that for corporations, and the only organization, the only one that is standing up to corporations, is standing right in front of me.”

Tolman was followed by State Senator Paul Feeney (D-Bristol & Norfolk), a known advocate for union workers on Beacon Hill. Feeney recalled past clashes in court between unions and corporations, most recently with Citizens United in the fight for contract rights for its workers.

“The battle against workers is a tale as old as time, but so is our response. When we come together and we join together with people-powered politics, and we give power back to the people in the grass roots, then we can never ever be defeated,” Feeney said. “Brothers and sisters, I had a mentor of mine for years who said, 'Paul, in times of crisis you can get bitter or you can get better.' Well dammit, I'm pretty bitter, but right now we get better, right now we stick together!”

State Rep. Antonio Cabral (D-New Bedford), a former teacher in the Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA), related his personal affection for the formation of unions with the audience, saying, “I was a teacher and a member of the MTA. So, I know what it's like to have the freedom to organize and to become a team so we can work together for better lives, for better jobs, good paying jobs.”

“Good-paying jobs means strong communities, good paying jobs means strong families, good paying jobs means a strong state and strong nation. That's what unions represent. We are here today for the freedom to unionize, the freedom to come together, and to fit our own rights. We are going to fight back. ” Cabral continued. “Enemies of the working people listen carefully. We are going to fight you every step of the way.”

Tim Dunn/TSM