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.”