Community members rally to address major problems of city

Workers’ Dignity hold rally at Metro Courthouse. (photo by Justin Darden)

A group of local workers and residents held a rally to urge local and state leaders to address the urgent issues and needs that are affecting an urban city as well as announcing solutions to address those concerns during a press conference at the Metro Nashville City Hall on April 9.

The news conference, sponsored by Workers’ Dignity, took place on the steps of the city hall as part of a recovery recess event started by a group of labor, racial justice, environmental, and progressive grassroots groups. At the news conference, Workers’ Dignity and other grassroots groups addressed the budget that the Metro Nashville City Council passed last summer as being inadequate. Speakers said they need to invest in alternative solutions to policing. Erica Perry, co-director of Workers’ Dignity, said the city needs to do more to address the needs of its residents such as housing and education. Perry said that when it comes to the issue of housing, the city received an ‘F’ because its budget did not set up safe, affordable housing for residents. When it came to education, Perry said the city received a ‘C-’ because communities are experiencing the inability to participate in virtual learning.

When it came to the issue of policing, Perry said Nashville received an ‘F’ because the budget for the Metro Nashville Police Department was too high. According to a press release, community members demanded the Metro Council defund the police and make investments in community resources and infrastructure. However, the Metro Council voted to increase the police budget. Jamel Campbell-Gooch, organizer with the Black Nashville Assembly, said that something needed to be done to resolve the issue of the police budget.

“We demanded change last year. We were ignored, and our people keep being killed. We’re back and we expect something different this year,” said Campbell-Gooch.

Another issue addressed in the news conference was commercial construction and how it affected workers in Nashville. According to an annual report by Workers’ Dignity, construction workers had faced COVID-19 outbreaks and cover-ups on many worksites, in addition to the hazards that come with working in a dangerous construction industry. Cecilia Prado, co-director of Workers’ Dignity who led its commercial campaign, said she had called on the Metro Council to make changes to the construction business in Nashville.

“Tennessee construction workers are dying building this city,” said Prado. They are dying of COVID and falling from high rises because companies want to take everything for profit instead of providing safety. Metro can do right by workers by funding the resources we need in our communities.”

The event organizers called on state leaders  like Senators Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty to support a recovery package to address issues such as climate change, the economic crisis, implement racial justice reforms, and create good jobs, along with protecting democracy.

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