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“Organize the South”: Interview with Saladin Muhammad

By staff

Saladin Muhammad is a veteran leader of the labor and African American liberation movements in North Carolina. He is responsible for coordinating organizing in North Carolina and Virginia for the North Carolina and Virginia Public Service Workers Unions UE Locals 150 and 160. Muhammad is building the fight against a North Carolina law, NC 95-98, which limits workers’ rights to collectively bargain.

Fight Back!: How has the struggle of the Sanitation workers impacted other workers in the public sector in Raleigh? How does the movement to repeal NC 95-98 play into this?

Saladin Muhammad: Yes, city workers in other departments have begun joining the union. State workers are also stepping up. The NC Public Service Workers Union-UE Local 150 launched the International Worker Justice Campaign in 2004 to build a rank-and-file and grassroots movement for collective bargaining rights and the repeal of NC 95-98. The current struggle draws attention to the strike as one of the only options left to the workers when there is no right to bargain. Many allies and forces who silently said they support collective bargaining are coming out publicly with this support as a result of this struggle. Appealing to the community has been a major component of the struggle. This struggle has been able to take away the strike issue as an argument used by management against unions.

Fight Back!: What is the significance of the Raleigh Sanitation workers’ struggle in the long-term goal of organizing the South?

Saladin Muhammad: This struggle is helping to create a labor, faith and community alliance as a social justice united front with the potential of building a united democratic front movement for economic and social justice and political power for African Americans and workers in the South. People seemed to make the connection between the relationship of quality working conditions to the delivery of quality services.

Fight Back!: What is next for the Sanitation workers struggle?

Saladin Muhammad: The union will hold a municipal workers’ summit reaching out to city workers throughout the state to bring together to develop a statewide program of action for city workers. Forums are currently being organized in various cities over the next two weeks entitled, “Understaffed, overworked and underpaid.”

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