Super Bowl Sunday v. Union Rights in Indiana

While sports media is hyping up its fan base for Super Bowl Sunday, liquor sales are sailing through the roof, and grocery stores are quadrupling their shelves with avocadoes, chips, and salsa.

Yet, the story that the 99% of sports fans are unaware of is this:  Hoosier Union workers have been demonstrating at the Indiana statehouse for several weeks now, against Governor Mitch Daniels’ attempts to pass  so-called “right to work” legislation.

These laws would allow workers to be awarded the benefits of union representation without having to join a union or pay union dues. As David Zirin, from The Nation,  explains, “these ‘Right to Work’ laws have also been called ‘Right to Beg’ or ‘Right to Starve’ since they undercut wages, benefits and the most basic workplace protections.”

Theresa Moran, in Labor Notes writes, “ While the bill’s backers argue that it would have little effect beyond the 11 percent of the state’s workers who are union members, opponents say such laws drive everyone’s wages down. “It’s a ‘falling tide’ effect,” said David Williams of the Laborers.”

Moran informs us that union members of the Steelworkers, Carpenters, Laborers, Teamsters, Food and Commercial Workers, and other unions packed the capitol chambers and rallied outside a joint House-Senate hearing on the bill. They continued to remain, even after Governor Daniels had the microphones turned off to the hundreds organized on the Capitol steps, depriving them of their right to hear the session inside.

A steelworker at BF Goodrich Tire in Woodburn, Herb Anderson, reported that most people he has spoken with, while walking door-to-door, says that 90% of folks “think it’s wrong….People feel that unions have a place.”

Moran notes that eventually, such laws could create divisions between union members and workers who refuse to join. “We’ve got to stick together and this will just make us weaker,” says Brian Babcock, a UAW member at the Lear auto parts plant in Hammond, Indiana.

In fact, many workers are now calling this as "Occupy the Super Bowl."

This movement has crossed party lines, with a group of Republican unionists, naming themselves as “Lunchpail Republicans” have spent money on television ads opposing the “right-to-work” movement, claiming that the Republican party in Indiana has “lost its focus.”

Robert Kreig, a Laborer from South Bend participating in the statehouse protests explains it this way:   “It’s like joining the YMCA and not paying the membership fee and then wondering why the gymnasium isn’t maintained and the pool is dirty.”

How does this impact the Super Bowl, you ask?  The NFL Players Association supports these efforts by union workers, and six football player unionists, all Indiana natives, sent letters to the legislature last week opposing this legislation.

Zirin also notes that the NFL Players Association DeMaurice Smith says that the football players’ union may “possibly” support a demonstration outside the stadium, and that picket lines have been supported by the NFL union in the past.

Sports fans need be reminded of how “people who work in and around” the stadiums, i.e. the workers in bars, restaurants, hotels, parking lots -  are all impacted by labor rights’ policies and legislation.   If I took a taxi home from the game,  I wouldn’t want my life put in danger by a cab driver who had already worked  a 20 hr. shift without time off.

So I ask you, where is the media coverage on this?  I’ve been listening to and observing as many sports shows as possible, including ESPN, NFL, Outside the Lines, PTI,  & our own Chicago Tribune Live,  to name a few – and not one I’ve seen or listened to, has informed the general public of the political issues reverberating around Lucas Oil Stadium.

But really, “All politics is local, “as former U.S. House of Representative, from Massachusetts, Tip O’Neill so rightly informed us. And the media wants it to stay that way.

So that’s the answer – the media is so driven to build up and focus on the most watched and covered annual sporting event, worldwide. The media tells the world where to be this Sunday, how to feel, what to wear, what to eat, and how to “party on. ” And the media  will go out of its way to keep the public from telling us what the local “man/woman-in-the-workforce” mentality may be in our neighboring state right now.

Yet we all know it comes down to money, as NBC and every other sporting show knows.  Don’t drive away the sponsors, heaven forbid. No news is good news.

But you’re hearing  from this South Side Sports Chick – whose father and uncles were union men on the South Side, who worked hard, every week, and took pride in their work – because they loved what they did, made good friends, and cared about their co-workers and THEIR families.  Union representation does that too.  Bonding. Friendship. Loyalty. Family.

We’ll see what happens with our neighbor up north:  Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s recall, in his move to restrict union representation.   We saw what happened in Ohio when voters dealt a sharp blow to Governor John Kasich’s attempts to restrict the collective bargaining rights law he championed last November.

And we’ll see how Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels fares after Monday, when the dust has settled and Lucas Oil emptied of the crowds and hoopla. But someone needs to remind Daniels that oil spills take a long time to clean up, with collateral damage on-going.




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