Two SEIU locals, including Maryland’s largest healthcare union, join growing movement to save historic civil rights site
Dr. Helena Hicks, protestor at 1955 sit-in to desegregate Read’s lunch counter, will speak at rally, announce next steps in campaign
BALTIMORE — Union and community activists will rally Thursday to save the historic Read’s Drug Store building in downtown Baltimore. The rally will feature remarks from Dr. Helena Hicks, one of the eight protestors at the 1955 sit-in to desegregate the whites-only lunch counter at Read’s.
Hicks will be joined by leaders from the preservation group Baltimore Heritage and by activists from two SEIU locals, including 1199SEIU, Maryland’s largest healthcare union. 1199SEIU delegates voted last month to back the effort to save the historic civil rights site, which is targeted for demolition by an out-of-town developer. The Baltimore chapter of 1199SEIU has deep ties to the civil rights movement, having been founded in 1969 during a campaign led by Coretta Scott King.
“Our history and Baltimore’s history is bound up in the civil rights struggle,” says 1199SEIU Executive Vice President John Reid. “We can’t build a healthy future for Baltimore by erasing this vital part of its past.”
1199SEIU has been leading an ambitious effort to revitalize the city called the Heart of Baltimore campaign. The campaign is uniting local healthcare workers to improve patient care and working conditions in the city’s many hospitals and nursing homes, which employ 1 in 5 Baltimore workers. By lifting the living standards of workers in healthcare, which is now Baltimore’s biggest industry, the Heart of Baltimore campaign aims to drive smart and sustainable growth all across the city.
Thursday’s rally is being held in conjunction with SEIU Local 32BJ, the SEIU affiliate that represents local janitors and security officers. 1199SEIU and 32BJ are both partners in the “Fight for a Fair Economy,” a national campaign backed by SEIU to promote job-creation efforts that benefit average Americans, not just wealthy CEOs and well-connected developers.
“Tearing down an invaluable landmark from the civil rights movement is not the kind of responsible economic development Baltimore needs,” said Jaime Contreras, Local 32BJ Capital Area District Chair.
The Fight for a Fair Economy, which is being launched this spring, will focus intensely on 17 American cities, including Baltimore. The Baltimore campaign, which is being coordinated in partnership with local community groups, is known as “Good Jobs, A Better Baltimore.”