Kobra Oden stood in front of union workers, living-wage advocates and politicians, tearful as she described her struggle as a private security guard in the city for six years. No health care, no sick days and a $0.35 cent raise to boot.
For someone who felt as though she did not have a voice, Oden’s voice rang loudly yesterday in a crowded Center City church as a few hundred people rallied for better wages, benefits and training in the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King. The group included Congressman Chaka Fattah, State Rep. Babette Josephs and several City Council members.
Throughout Philadelphia, rallies, volunteerism and re-enactments marked the 25th anniversary of MLK’s birthday becoming a national holiday. Thousands volunteered at events across the city, including Mayor Michael Nutter, who refurbished computers at Girard College.
In Southwest Philadelphia, anti-violence activist Paul “Earthquake” Moore played the role of MLK in a march and speech.
But some of the most impassioned speech occurred at First Unitarian Church, where security workers from across the city spoke out for their civil rights. Non-union officers in the city make as little as $9 an hour without benefits, compared to $15.35 an hour, benefits and sick leave for union officers, according to SEIU Local 32 BJ.
“I was out there twice 5:30 in the morning before it was time for me to clock in handing out fliers. They can’t do nothing to us,” Oden shouted to applause. “It’s time. The time is now. Stop being scared.”