Unions and Occupiers vs. the Super Bowl

The Left vows consequences for Indiana taking on the Big Labor machine.

Editor’s note: To get David Horowitz’s perspective on the OWS movement, see his recent lead feature, Communism Reborn. For the whole story behind Occupy Wall Street and how this movement marks a new phase in the rebirth of the communist Left, read the new broadside by David Horowitz and John Perazzo, Occupy Wall Street: The Communist Movement Reborn. This essential pamphlet exposes the roots, leaders and hidden agendas of the radical movement and its war on capitalism and free societies.

On Wednesday morning, the Indiana state Senate passed right-to-work legislation, making Indiana the first Rust Belt state to take such a turn. The 28-22 vote in the Republican-controlled chamber occurred after two hours of debate in the General Assembly session. The bill was sent to Governor Mitch Daniels, who signed the legislation later that afternoon. The bill prohibits employers from entering into any agreement that would force employees to join a union or require them to pay dues, fees, assessment or any other charges to a labor organization. Indiana becomes the 23rd right-to-work state in the nation and the first to pass right-to-work legislation in ten years. "The only change will be a positive one," the governor said in a statement released today by his office. "Indiana will improve still further its recently earned reputation as one of America’s best places to do business, and we will see more jobs and opportunity for our young people and for all those looking for a better life." Could a new epoch reining in the excesses of the failed union era be in the offing?

Union members and their supporters were furious. Approximately 3000 people gathered inside the Statehouse chanted "Shame on you!" and "See you at the Super Bowl!" as the vote was announced. 3000-4000 other protesters gathered outside the building on the Statehouse lawn for a rally that spilled into the streets of Indianapolis. Approximately half the protesters then marched to the Indiana Convention Center, carrying posters with slogans such as "Hands off My Union," "Stop the War on Workers" and "Ditch Mitch."

The bill's passage followed last Wednesday's 55-44 vote in the Republican-controlled House in favor of the bill, days after an identically worded bill previously passed the Senate. It then moved to the Senate's Pensions and Labor Committee on Monday, where it passed in a 6-1 vote, despite Democrats being absent from the chamber. Democratic senators, who contended they were protesting, not boycotting, Monday's hearing, characterized the session as a "mockery." Senator Karen Tallian (D-Portage) contended that Republicans were trying to get the bill passed before the Super Bowl. Other Democrats said they were protesting because Republicans would not allow them to bring up amendments to the bill on Monday.

This is far from the first time Democrats have employed such boycotting tactics. Almost a year ago, House Democrats literally fled the state in order to prevent a quorum from being achieved to allow a vote on the same right-to-work legislation. All but two of 40 Democrats hid out in Illinois, leaving only 58 legislators present to conduct business. 67 House members are the minimum number required by Indiana law. Two Democrats remained behind to make any necessary motions and block Republicans from moving the legislation through in the absence of a quorum. The rest of the House Democrats remained out of the state for five weeks.

They continued using a similar quorum-avoidance tactic for weeks during the bill's debating sessions, walking out of the chamber to hold private caucuses. The walkouts once again prevented the House from holding a vote. State Rep. Clyde Kersey (D-Terre Haute), one of 35 Democrats who used the maneuver, claimed it was aimed at keeping Republicans from avoiding national media scrutiny, or debating the bill without public or opposition input. "This is all part of the democratic process that we're going through here," Kersey contended.

Such contentions are absurd. The democratic process is not served by preventing a vote from occurring, nor is it true that any kind of scrutiny or input was being avoided, unless one considers daily protests staged by union supporters at the Statehouse--including one in which their chants could be heard as Gov. Daniels delivered his State of the State address earlier this month--to be irrelevant.

On January 18th, the issue reached another level when Republicans voted to fine Democratic state representatives $1,000 per day if they continued to boycott sessions to purposefully delay action on the right-to-work legislation. Two days later, Marion County temporarily blocked the fines of those Democrats who challenged the House's authority to impose them. This marks the second time such a fight occurred. House Democrats are still fighting fines imposed on them for their five week sojourn in Illinois. That case is headed to the Indiana Supreme Court.

Yet after two legislative sessions during which Democrats, in addition to the boycotts, offered amendments aimed at changing the bill, and sought to put it before voters in a referendum, the reality of a substantial Republican majority in the House became impossible to overcome. It was a reality for which Democrats have no one to blame but themselves. Prior to the 2010 election, Democrats held a 52-48 majority in the House, and while they were outnumbered 33-17 in the Senate, that number was high enough to prevent Senate Republicans from achieving the two-thirds vote necessary to maintain a quorum without a single Democrat. The mid-term election was a bloodbath for Democrats. They are now outnumbered 60-40 in the House, and Senate Republicans got their two-thirds majority, holding a 36-14 edge. Thus, the bill's passage was only a matter of time.

Yet as is becoming drearily expected, the will of the electorate means little or nothing to unionists and their Democrat enablers when that will is reflected in legislation antithetical to their agenda. Incredibly, labor activists are talking about taking their protest to what they consider one of the biggest stages in the nation--the Super Bowl game on Sunday, February 5th. That protest could reportedly include such tactics as Teamsters jamming city streets with trucks, and union electricians staging a slowdown at the Super Bowl Village convention site. Even more incredibly, they could be joined by protesters from the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement.

A combination of both groups has already staged two protests in the Super Bowl Village last Friday and Saturday. And many of those protesters indicated that a signed right-to-work bill would not, as some are hoping, end the demonstrations, but rather provide the impetus to ramp them up. "If the Governor signs, I want to shame him out of this state," said Heath Hensley of Occupy Anderson. "He doesn't want us screwing up this Super Bowl." Tim Janko, a steelworker from northwest Indiana was equally upset. "I'm going to picket the Super Bowl because this is wrong," he said. "I'm going to have a Teamster drive me into town."

The Nation's Dave Zirin stirs the pot by describing the Super Bowl itself as yet another object of scorn for the class warriors in order to justify such demonstrations. "The Super Bowl is perennially the Woodstock for the 1 percent: a Romneyesque cavalcade of private planes, private parties and private security," he writes. "Combine that with this proposed legislation, and the people of Indiana will not let this orgy of excess go unoccupied." That odious motif was echoed by Jeff Harris, spokesman for the Indiana AFL-CIO, who called the game "the ultimate party for the 1%," and Occupy Purdue organizer Tithi Bhattacharya, a professor at Purdue University. "If the bill becomes law this week then it is very important for all of us to protest this Sunday," said the professor. "We should show the 1 percent that the fate of Indiana cannot be decided with the swish of a pen by corporate politicians--the Super Bowl should be turned into a campaign for justice and jobs.”

The bet here is most Americans still think it's a football game, and there is the possibility that cooler heads might still prevail. "These guys have worked all their lives and this is their only shot," said Pete Rimsans, executive director of the Indiana State Building and Construction Trades Council. "We don't want to do anything that could ruin that." Union boilermaker Pete Etoler also saw the potential for a backlash. "I think it will hurt our cause," he said. "We're trying to build up Indiana and bring businesses here. That won't help." Governor Daniels noted that anything detracting from what is arguably the highest profile sports event in America "would be a colossal mistake."

If a Rasmussen poll is any indication, a large-scale Super Bowl protest would indeed be a colossal mistake. Seventy-four percent of likely voters think non-union workers should not be forced to pay dues in a closed union shop. Just 15 percent disagree, and 11 percent aren't sure. Furthermore, only 11.8% of America's entire workforce belongs to a union, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics--and only 6.9 percent of those workers were private sector employees. The rest were public sector employees. Thus, any Super Bowl protest aimed at winning public sympathy is likely to backfire. Big time.

That doesn't mean it won't happen. Union thugs and their enablers have long grown comfortable with the idea that coercion and intimidation, no matter how ill-advised, is the ultimate fallback position when their agenda is thwarted by the democratic process. Staging a game-disrupting protest however, could be a fatal miscalculation: no matter how miserable or dangerous thuggish tactics employed by union members and/or OWSers might make it for 150,000 people expected to show up in Indianapolis, tens of millions of other Americans will be watching any unseemly spectacle from the comfort of their homes, neighborhood bars, etc. Will those Americans be intimidated? Disgusted is far more likely.

However Super Sunday turns out, one thing is certain: in Indiana, any employee who wishes to be a member of a union, or any workforce that wishes to be represented by organized labor, is still free to do so. The bill's passage means workers can no longer be compelled to join a union, or pay dues to a labor organization whose views may be completely out of synch with their own. Labor leaders call that union-busting. One suspects a majority of Americans call it freedom.

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