Jesse Jackson brings hope to pickets

of the Intelligencer

Striking workers from Beverly Farm got support from one of the top civil rights leaders in the nation Thursday when the Rev. Jesse Jackson joined them for a march and rally in Godfrey.

About 500 people followed Jackson up Humbert Road to a rally where he encouraged the striking members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31, to "Keep hope alive."

Jackson, who preaches non-violence, told strikers he has asked for a meeting with Gov. George Ryan to seek a peaceful settlement of the strike. The workers walked out July 9 after 11 months of negotiations failed to end their five-year struggle with Beverly Farm, 6301 Humbert Road in Godfrey. Beverly Farm is a sheltered care home for developmentally disabled adults. AFSCME Regional Director Buddy Maupin said earlier that the company preferred to pay for temporary personnel rather than settle the strike.

"Beverly Farm paid our people as little as $5.35 an hour," Maupin said then. "It is hiring strikebreakers rather than give our workers a 65-cents-an-hour raise."

Before the march, Jackson, who is an ordained Baptist minister, went to Clayton, Mo., where he held a prayer vigil outside one of the temporary agencies, Rehab Care Group, Inc.

A number of non-striking workers watched the march from the sidelines, some wearing shirts with anti-strike messages. There were signs on Beverly Farm property claiming non-strikers want another vote on the union. Workers voted for the union 274-47 in 1994.

Jackson encouraged the striking workers not to sell their dignity. He called on workers who cross the picket line in front of Beverly Farm to join the strike for the benefit of all workers, not just those in the union.

Several officials from Madison County, Godfrey and nearby cities also attended the rally, including state Rep. Steve Davis, D-Bethalto.

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