Union Rally Fizzles

Union organizer: 'All these organizations are the same'

OKLAHOMA CITY — Upset about organizations that support the privatization of public services and reform efforts in public education, among other things, about 40 union workers and community activists protested outside the Cox Convention Center here Wednesday.

Their specific target was ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, which is one of a number of organizations at the State Policy Network convention being held this week. Carrying signs that opposed ALEC, the group rallied quietly for about 30 minutes.

Tim O'Connor, coordinator of the protest and head of the Central Oklahoma Community Forum, which he said was comprised of unions and faith-based organizations, said the ALEC signs were used because they were leftover from a rally in May, when ALEC held a convention at the same location.

"Really when you start looking at SPN and all these organizations they are the same," he said. "These are the same groups that are all funded by the Kochs. They promote private prisons, which aren't safe. They are against teachers and public workers."

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O'Connor said he was disappointed the crowd wasn't larger. 

"I wish we could've had more people here today, but they work for a living," he said.

Oklahoma City police were on hand throughout the day in anticipation of a larger crowd, but it never materialized.

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Detroit Prep is a top-rated and economically and racially diverse charter school in the city. It's growth means it needs to move out from a church basement and into a new location. Nearby is a former Detroit Public Schools building, sitting empty for years. But, worried about competition, the public school district refused to sell. For years, district and local government officials in Detroit had worked to block public charter schools. They pushed legislation at the Michigan Capitol to hinder them, refused to sell to them, transferred surplus buildings from the district to the city government and imposed deed restrictions on property sales to private developers. All of it was aimed to hinder or even prevent charter school choice outside the confines of the Detroit school district.

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