Jay Lake (jaylake) wrote,
Jay Lake

[photos|politics] In which I go to a political protest

Yesterday [info]tillyjane a/k/a my mom called me up and asked me to go to a protest in support of the Wisconsin public sector unions. I hemmed and hawed about skipping out on my writing time, but decided that the novel would still be there after the opportunity for civic participation had passed. I figure there were about four or five hundred people there once it got going, a mixture of teachers, nurses, trade union guys and political activists. The weather was clear and quite cold, so I did not last through the entire rally.

There are some aspects of the union movement I am uncomfortable with. My father was a U.S. diplomat, so I did not grow up in a household where labor issues were much on anyone's mind on a daily basis. My first awareness of unions was the Teamster's strike, back in the mid-seventies, when scabs were being killed. Specifically, a non-union busdriver who ran into a brick-on-a-rope trap at an underpass, if I recall correctly. That and Jimmy Hoffa. My next awareness was a cross-country family trip to a major theme park that arrived after months of planning and weeks of travel and promises to find it closed due to an employee strike. Let's just say I wasn't emotionally primed as a child to see unions as a force for good.

At the same time, I like forty-hour work weeks and paid vacations and benefits packages. Those things did not become standards in the American workplace thanks to the Invisible Hand of the market, or to competition between employers. They became standards because of decades of risky and sometimes fatal union activism. Even if you've never paid union dues in your life, even if you believe that unions are satanic tools of the socialist Left, if you work for a living, you owe them a great deal. Unions have done far more for you than your employer ever would have left to the magic of market self-regulation and unfettered capital. That's a perspective that's utterly lost on most rank and file conservatives today.

I don't know if this is a Martin Niemoller moment in our society or not, but I went to stand with the Communists and the trade unionists yesterday. What have you done to protect your freedom?

A few photos...


[info]tillyjane her own self

A teacher


One of the union guys

Sousaphone player warming up — he was camera shy

Old Glory and an ideal

Sometimes even the signs have signs.

All this took place in the afternoon shadows beneath the brightly-lit Nordstrom's facade — I found this ironic, though I'm not sure anyone else even noticed

I asked this young protestor what the red flag meant to him; he said, "Class solidarity."

As usual, more at the Flickr set.

Creative Commons License

This work by Joseph E. Lake, Jr. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

Tags: family, photos, politics, portland, wisconsin, writing

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