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January 2012, Week 5

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Tue, 31 Jan 2012 21:35:32 -0500
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Occupy the Super Bowl: Now More Than Just a Slogan.
By Dave Zirin
The Nation Blogs
Jan. 31, 2012
http://www.thenation.com/blog/165952/occupy-super-bowl-605222222222now-more-just-slogan

"Upsetting the Super Bowl-- I couldn't care less.
This is about my life and my family."
--Lou Feldman, IBEW local 668

The sheer volume of the Super Bowl is overpowering:
the corporate branding, the sexist beer ads, the miasma
of Madison Avenue-produced militarism, the two-hour
pre-game show.

But people in the labor and Occupy movements in Indiana
are attempting to drown out the din with the help of a
human microphone right at the front gates of Lucas Oil
Stadium. The Republican-led state legislature aims to
pass a law this week that would make Indiana a
"right-to-work" state.

For those uninitiated in Orwellian doublespeak, the term
"right-to-work" ranks with "Operation Iraqi Freedom" and
"Fair & Balanced" as a phrase of grotesque sophistry.

In the reality-based community, "right-to-work" means
smashing the state's unions and making it harder for
nonunion workplaces to get basic job protections. This
has drawn peals of protest throughout the state, with
the Occupy and labor movement front and center from
small towns to Governor Mitch Daniels's door at the
State House. Daniels and friends timed this legislation
with the Super Bowl. Whether that was simple arrogance or
ill-timed idiocy, they made a reckless move. Now protests
will be a part of the Super Bowl scenery in Indy.

The Super Bowl is perennially the Woodstock for the
1 percent: a Romneyesque cavalcade of private planes,
private parties and private security. Combine that with
this proposed legislation, and the people of Indiana will
not let this orgy of excess go unoccupied. Just as the
parties start a week in advance, so have the protests.

More than 150 people--listed as seventy-five in USA
Today, but I'll go with eyewitness accounts--marched
through last Saturday's Super Bowl street fair in
downtown Indianapolis with signs that read, "Occupy the
Super Bowl," "Fight the Lie" and "Workers United Will
Prevail."

Occupy the Super Bowl has also become a
T-shirt, posted for the world to see on the NBC Sports
Blog. The protests also promise to shed light on the
reality of life for working families in the city of
Indianapolis. Unemployment is at 13.3 percent, with
unemployment for African-American families at 21
percent. Two of every five African-American families
with a child under 5 live below the anemic poverty
line. Such pain amidst the gloss of the Super Bowl and
the prospect of right-to-work legislation is, for many,
a catalyst to just do something.

April Burke, a former school teacher and member of a
local Occupy chapter, said to me, "I see right-to-work
for what it is: an attack on not only organized labor 
but on all working-class people.... Because strong unions
set the bar for wages, RTW laws will effectively lower wages
for all.

Rushing the passage of RTW in the State of
Indiana on the eve of the Super Bowl is an insult to
the thousand of union members who built Lucas Stadium
as well as the members of the National Football League
Players Association who issued a statement condemning
the RTW bill." As April mentioned, the NFLPA has spoken
out strongly against the bill.

When I interviewed Player Association president DeMaurice
Smith last week, he said: When you look at proposed
legislation in a place like Indiana that wants to call
it something like 'right-to-work,' I mean, let's just
put the hammer on the nail. It's untrue. This bill has
nothing to do with a right to work. If folks in Indiana
and that great legislature want to pass a bill that
really is something called 'right-to-work' have a
constitutional amendment that guarantees every citizen
a job. That's a right to work. What this is instead is
a right to ensure that ordinary working citizens can't get
together as a team, can't organize and can't fight
management on an even playing field. So don't call it
'right-to-work.'

If you want to have an intelligent discussion about what
the bill is, call it what it is. Call it an anti-organizing
bill. Fine... let's cast a vote on whether or not ordinary
workers can get together and represent themselves, and
let's have a real referendum.

But Governor Mitch Daniels, who was George W. Bush's budget
director, didn't get this far by feeling shame or holding
referendums. This is the same Mitch Daniels who said in 2006,
"I'm not interested in changing any of it. Not the prevailing
wage laws, and certainly not the right-to-work law. We
can succeed in Indiana with the laws we have,
respecting the rights of labor, and fair and free
competition for everybody." In other words, he's that
most original of creatures: a politician who lies.

If Daniels signs the bill before the big game,
demonstrations sponsored by the AFL-CIO in partnership
with the Occupy Movement will greet the 100,000 people
who can afford the pilgrimage to Lucas Oil Field. The
NFLPA, I've been told by sources, will also not be
silent in the days to come.

As Occupy protester Tithi Bhattacharya said to me,
"If the bill becomes law this week then it is very
important for all of us to protest this Sunday. 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."

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