About 200 attend rally at Hammond Stadium
Approximately 200 people gathered at Hammond Stadium Monday night to participate in the “We are One – An Evening of Solidarity” rally in honor of Dr. Marin Luther King Jr. for standing up for the rights of union workers.
King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, iu Memphis, Tenn.
Lee County was among groups in 20 states that participated in the same rally. A moment of silence was held at 6:01 p.m. to remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and what he died for.
Various unions attended the rally with signs and American flags in hand. Many chants also filled the air as various individuals took the microphone and shared their thoughts and views about Gov. Rick Scott and the various bills that have been introduced in the state legislature.
Donna Mutzenard, executive director of Island Coast FEA Service Unit, said the rally was successful because of all the different unions that came together for a cause to fight for what is right for everyone.
“The unions aren’t the problem and public employees aren’t the problem,” she said, adding that teachers are not the cause of the recession.
Mutzenard said teachers have always been under paid and overworked.
“We don’t deserve this,” she said, encouraging everyone to get out and vote in 2012.
Mark Castellano, president of the Teachers Association of Lee County, told the crowd gathered outside the stadium that “this is our country and we are going to take it back.”
“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore,” he said.
Barbara Bartnikowski, Island Coast FEA Teachers Association of Lee County vice president of memberships and 5th grade teacher at Orange River Elementary School, also attended the rally because she was curious who would be attending. She said the rally is important because “this is my last career and I enjoy my career.”
The rally, Bartnikowski said, is a way to try to get their voices out there because she loves having a positive impact on her kids. She said the rally also provided a wake-up call for everyone because “it is starting to happen to teachers.”
“I am here to support everybody,” Bartnikowski said. “We need to be all as one.”
She said she joined the union because it helps make your voice be heard if an issue arises.
Members from the Cape Coral firefighters union were also present Monday night.
President Mark Muerth told the crowd that he was there to tell everyone that he has had enough.
“Our voice is being heard across the nation,” he said. “No more cuts, no more bail-outs, no more attempts to silence our voice.”
Muerth said he attended the rally because he wants to challenge what is going on with all the bills that are being introduced. The paycheck protection bill, which the union refers to as the “paycheck deception bill,” is one that they are watching very closely. He said if this bill is passed it would get rid of unions, which is how they function.
“We are trying to make people understand that we are all in this together,” Muerth said, adding that it is time to get the economy back and move it forward.
The Cape Coral Firefighters union represents nearly 200.
Sharon Plath, who is a retired public worker, traveled to Fort Myers from North Port Monday because Hammond Stadium is the closest location to where she lives where a rally was being held. She said she attended for the union members because “it’s a shame what is happening to the middle class.”
The rally, Plath said, empowers the people to go back to work and tell their co-workers and friends of what is going on. She said it is all about providing information to others.