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Special Report: The Right To Work demonstrations in Lansing.
(There were plenty of state police stationed at every entrance of the capitol and inside. As I walked around outside, I overheard that a throng of union members would be coming to join the large gathering already forming on the walkway leading up to and on the front steps. We walked across the lawn to meet with AFP in their tent. After I spoke briefly with Scott Hagerstrom, Michigan’s Americans for Prosperity leader, and others, I left the tent to walk about and take photos. Most of the people on the lawn were from trades unions, baby boomers, retired UAW, in fact many of retirement age. One protest sign said that Right to Work would end democracy. Chants and bullhorns told of the destruction of the middle class, race to the bottom, freeloaders and decreased wages.)
On Tuesday, December 11th, 2012, I traveled to Lansing, MI, the capitol of my state, to support Freedom to Work (Right To Work) legislation.
The day before, President Obama gave a speech in Detroit.
“I just got to say this — what we shouldn’t be doing is trying to take away your rights to bargain for better wages and working conditions,” Obama said at an event inside a Detroit Diesel engine plant.
“You know, these so-called right-to-work laws — they don’t have to do with economics. They have everything to do with politics,” he said. “What they’re really talking about is giving you the right to work for less money.”
Right to work legislation in Michigan makes it a personal decision by an employee to join or not join a union, and makes it unlawful for an employer to fire an employee for not joining or joining a union, the law did not even address bargaining. Regardless of the truth, the president dutifully fed the activists some phrases I would hear all day, along with other words commonly used during this year’s presidential campaign.
Union members have been told that Right to Work forces unions to represent people without receiving dues, therefore, the people who would opt out are freeloading free representation.
Before Right to Work legislation, unions forced exclusive representation even though they have the option of negotiating ‘members only’ contracts. Exclusive representation compels a person to accept union representation. Technically, people have the right to opt out, but the unions make the conscious choice to represent them against their wishes. If you don’t want to be part of the union, you get hit with a fee, which unions rationalize as necessary because the person would be benefiting from union’s representative efforts in regard to wages and benefits. But even though you pay the fee, they will continue to represent you with exclusive representation. The new law actually enforces a members only contract, and frees employees in a unionized shop from being represented by the union. The law makes it difficult for unions to control the worker. It truly is freedom to work without having to join or pay a union.
So the freeloader mantra is a lie once Right to Work legislation is passed.
The Right To Work for less wages
I kept hearing, “your wages are about to go down,” and “race to the bottom,” and “the right to work is the right to work for less wages,” a phrase used by Obama. Since the Right to Work law would mean unions can negotiate a members only contract, the only way this argument would be true is if unions lose significant members and lose strength at the negotiating table. However, if unions were providing everything workers wanted, union numbers should be increasing, not decreasing.
One argument was that if you didn’t want to join a union, you could work at McDonalds or Walmart, and try to live on minimum wage. McDonalds and Walmart are non-unionized and provide ground-level jobs to unskilled workers. Those unskilled workers are as unskilled as those in some entry-level union jobs. Even though union wages and benefits paid to unskilled laborers are out of whack, no honest person negotiates down. If the unions intend to negotiate wages down, the union member has a good reason to keep them accountable to promises made. Grievances can be made and working together, union members would be able to have more of a say at the negotiating table. This legislation strengthens unions by increasing the power of the union member. Since the Obama administration actively fights against jobs provided by huge companies like Boeing from going to Right to Work states, the argument can be clearly made that he hurts his own union members in those states.
The death of democracy
As I walked around, taking it all in, I happened to be in the middle of several local newscasts at any given time. News reporters with perfect hair became magnets for 5-10 union workers. One after another, they would describe to reporters how unions strengthen democracy, how unions built Michigan, and how Michigan owes it to union members to strike down this nasty legislation that attacks the American Dream and is unfair to organized labor, the creator of the middle class. Union members are told by their representation, and that includes Obama, that the rich corporate jerks want them to work for nothing, and if it wasn’t for union representation, the rich wouldn’t pay a fair wage. They are also told that one person is not strong, but collectively, they can force the rich corporate fat cats to pay, or suffer the consequences of a walk-off.
Next to City Hall, across the street, a commentator with a microphone said that democracy is majority rule (and since unions put strength in numbers,) union busting is an attack on our democracy, our nation, and the soldiers who fought for our rights in America. Except for the military fighting for America, the rest of the comments are untrue, because America was founded as a republic, our rights are given by God, and our system of government puts individual citizens in the power seat. A person is not weak under our intended system of government.
As an argument, the death of democracy may be accurate, meaning that a rebirth of the representative republic may be at hand, through actions taken by states, the governments of which are more heavily influenced by the people. Although the legislation may just be the spark of liberty, it provides a path toward greater freedom.
The language of both parties is clear here. Democracy in the sense of the Democratic Party is top-down, majority rule, bully mentality, coercion. Republican in the sense of the Republican Party is empowerment of the individual to rise or fall according to his own effort, with little obstruction from a limited government.
The Koch Brothers
The Koch brothers were a topic of many of the catcalls from the swelling crowd at the front of the tent. It was difficult to listen to grown men defend their enslavement, and defend the unions who lied to them. I got into an argument with one young fresh-faced man who said that, “plutocrats like the Kochs are selfish and fight only for themselves,” and since he was fighting for everybody, for the common good, he had the moral high ground. I told him that freedom means responsibility for yourself and your own self-interest. He interrupted, and said he’s not some “Randian” selfish pig, and the idea that one person should take precedence over the common good is a dying philosophy. I laughed and told him that if he looked around, he was the youngest person there, arguing for his own enslavement. It was his philosophy that was dying out.
However, I would learn later, when I went back inside the capitol, just how the youth leftist movement ties in with his elderly friends on the lawn.
The death of the middle class
For decades, union workers in Michigan manufacturing plants churned out automobiles and other products while union representation provided high wages and benefits. As the years progressed, wages and benefits became more and more burdensome for companies, just as regulations imposed by an ever-expanding government forced more expensive materials and features to be included on a plethora of products. When the economy is good, companies can expect to agree upon negotiated wages, provided the consumer would agree to pay for regulations and wages baked into the finished product. Once a product is priced out of the market, and consumers refuse to pay, the next step is either bankruptcy, government takeover, or government coercion. The union model works longer if there is little government regulation. However, big-government Democrats and some Republicans have found a name for themselves by instituting government regulations in the name of safety and environment. Combine regulation with the highest corporate tax rate in the world, America’s “middle class” is on the verge of collapse. Not because the worker isn’t paid enough, but because the product is too expensive. So, while I find the term ‘middle class’ repugnant, because under capitalism, you have the freedom to be highly successful as well as the freedom to fail and try again, the middle class can only survive without these coercive maneuvers by government and unions, especially when government restricts so much activity through regulation. Through forced unionization, and forced government regulation, as well as forced taxation, unions and their allies in government are the opposite of freedom by definition.
As an aside, I am not against all unions. I am against force. I personally believe that it is possible in a dangerous work environment, for ‘suits’ to disregard or be entirely ignorant of the safety of a worker, and cause them bodily harm. People argue that there are plenty of laws on the books that would give the worker the right to refuse dangerous labor, however, a brotherhood of co-workers would be better able to stop an event from occurring. I believe it was dangerous working conditions that began the call for unions, and in certain instances, I feel they are a good idea.
However, what public unions do is egregious. Public employees are paid through taxation. With those wages, negotiated at about double that of the private sector, taxpayers pay dues to unions, therefore forcing the citizenry to pay dues to the Democrat Party in the form of campaign contributions.
It occurred to me that the throngs of people I saw on the capitol lawn may be surprised to find that the people they left at the job site can’t wait to get out of the union. Forced unionization and the collection of dues for political action is described as the top reason why many union members are dissatisfied with their union. Only 7% of the entire nation’s workforce is unionized privately, and only about 7% account for public union membership. 93% of all union political contributions go to Democrat coffers, and 80% of union members disagree with their dues being used as political gifts. After Wisconsin freed public workers of forced unionization, about half of those county and municipal employees left AFSCME.
When we first arrived at the Capitol, it was a little after 8am. As we entered the Capitol building, college students and teachers were already chanting and stomping on all floors of the rotunda. When we reached the top of the stairs, a man in a yellow vest told me to keep moving, don’t block the walkway, so I obeyed. One of the guys with me, Rich, told me that the people in the neon yellow and orange security vests are union marshals, and have no authority at all. They control the crowds on behalf of the unions. I would observe their tactics the rest of the day.
Because the Americans For Prosperity tent was the only shelter, food and rest area on the lawn, amidst thousands of angry union members, it became a magnet for union bully tactics. Union captains and marshals are paid by the unions to encourage intimidation while seemingly providing “security” for the masses. With a massive police force protecting the capitol, these paid security teams as well as the Michigan Peace Team roamed the lawn. The Michigan Peace Team is a group of people who advocate non-violence, but are less effective than the security teams.
As the morning wore on, news that the Michigan House would vote on the bills between noon and 2. As more and more union members crowded the front of the AFP tent, union members advanced upon us shouting obscenities and calling us names. The captains and marshals stood directly in front of us, in front of our tent, with their backs toward us, facing the angry mob. But, instead of making a chain amongst them to drive the union members back away from the tent, they incrementally stepped backward, causing the union members to push us more and more into the tent. With plenty of room on either side of the tent, the actions of the captains and marshals were deliberate, causing increasing union intimidation. At some point, the Michigan Peace Team came to us and told us to leave because we were causing aggravation to the mob by being there. It would be too much to ask, I suppose, for them to get the police involved. The idea that we provoked the mob was ridiculous, and I took video of union members closing in on us with the help of captains and marshals. Their mentality, “many are stronger than one alone,” worked well when physical aggression was the means by which they accomplished their task. Physical force works perfectly with their philosophy and world view.
I got sick of listening to union members shout at me and the others in the front of the tent, for being rich pigs and corporate jerks, neither of which I am, so I yelled back at one angry man, that being a man “means taking responsibility for yourself, and you argue for unions because you fear failure.” That fellow didn’t comprehend my statement, and stood there shocked. I had enough of another man who kept pointing his finger at us and yelling the f-word, so I got in his face and yelled as he was in ours. It was effective, he took a step back, and looked bewildered and walked to the side. But I was harangued by others who were on my side of the argument, who thought I should be reasonable, and do not engage them, and don’t provoke, and don’t drop down to their level.
This mentality was more offensive to me than all the union fingers and screams. What I did worked to shut the loud-mouthed bullies up. I believe they didn’t figure this nice lady had been learning their tactics all day and finally used it against them. But the mentality that you can reason with these people, and have some common ground, and discuss things rationally is absurd. I didn’t provoke them, they provoked me and got some back. Besides, the idea that 30 or so people in a tent could provoke a crowd of 12,000 people is ridiculous. They already had us pinned in the tent and then they began to loosen the tent straps.
I had left the tent through the back after it had gotten very rowdy in the front. Later on, I had learned that it was about that time that Steven Crowder was getting roughed up in the front of the tent. I had walked to the side, and started recording the union members who were loosening the straps and pulling up the stakes, causing the collapse of the tent. After watching the union tactics all day, and later finding out that Crowder had been assaulted, I realized that it was all set up. The union guy that started the crap with Crowder served as a distraction so that everyone would focus on what was going on in front of the tent, while the union activists worked together to collapse the tent behind. Is it any wonder the press and the union people are now saying that AFP knocked down their own tent? All the phones and cameras were focused on the front, and I was at the side, watching union members finish loosening the rest of the straps. They had been at it for a while and they finally had their chance to finish the job.
The Collapse of Civility
After the tent came down, and people seemed to be ok, I realized that my backpack with my laptop, wallet, credit cards, money, and the rest of my belongings were in the tent. The mob had begun to crowd all around the collapsed tent, making it more and more difficult to get through to find my stuff. As I frantically wormed my way through the intense jeering crowd to where the backpack was, I realized it was gone and I had no recourse. What if it had been stolen, and someone had my credit cards? My laptop had every bit of work I do on it. I couldn’t afford to replace anything. I had no insurance or proof that my backpack had been there, I had nothing. So much was going on right then, but I was beside myself, with nothing but loud, angry crowds all around me, and I could not reach the police, where were the police?
Civil society collapses when private property is disregarded. Nobody would come to my aid because they didn’t care. If I said, “Would you help me, my backpack was in the tent,” they would figure I was a piece of crap corporate pig, so to hell with me. That was what they did to Clint Tarver.
Later, I was told of the scene inside the tent. Men and women were trying to keep the posts and sides up, as others were grabbing things as they ran out, knowing the tent was doomed. Two masked men came in the tent, one in a Guy Fawkes mask and the other with a ski mask, got hotdogs from Tarver, then flipped the table of coffee servers over.
The fact that the masked men came in at the exact time that all hell was breaking loose means that Occupy was involved with the whole episode. It is my belief that the tent collapse culminated, not as a random event occurring because of heightened emotion, but because it was a planned atrocity.
Occupy was working in concert with the trades unions, the teachers unions, the municipal unions. They created a distraction at the front of the tent to divert attention, went inside to instill fear, and completely destroyed property and faith in common decency.
Clint Tarver’s private property was disregarded. AFP’s private property was disregarded, and the scene about 10 minutes later was of mounted police breaking up the crowd, who were on the tent, that was on people’s stuff. Fortunately, one of the ladies that got out of the tent prior to collapse had grabbed my stuff. I’m in debt to her.
One Man Targeted
As the union activists crowded on the tent, a man who had come to find the AFP tent was pushed to the ground. Within no time the angry mob was all around, about 8 people deep. I wormed my way in as far as I could to record what was at the center of this huge circled mob. It was one man. I thought I had recognized him, but I couldn’t place his face. Later, I found he was a facebook friend of mine, who reads my blog.
I walked to where they were and saw the protesters standing on them, breaking stuff, chanting, etc. I saw a friend of mine and was talking to him. A few protesters were tearing open the tent, stealing the food, glasses, etc that were under the collapsed tent. I decided to start videotaping it with my phone. As I was videotaping, I got shoved very hard from behind, enough that I fell to the ground. I looked around and the big union dude who did it said “I got shoved into you” — there was nobody behind him. As I was walking away, he said “yeah, you better walk away.” (At this point I’ve said nothing… I think I was targeted for my dress clothes). I said to him “why did you shove me?” He denied shoving me. Of course. I’m still recording with my phone. He realizes it. Tries taking it away from me. At this point, his buddies all realize that I’m by myself. Mob mentality kicks in. They surround me. There are 10 immediately around me bumping, cussing, etc. All of a sudden, I realize that there are now three rows of protesters behind them. And then five rows. All chanting GO HOME GO HOME. Mixed in with that are curses and horrible threats. I say nothing except “I’ve done nothing to you.” It gets louder. The “peace team” (union folks, themselves) wearing yellow and orange vests arrive and surround me. After two minutes or so, they convince me it’s time to leave. As we are walking away, the dude runs up and slams into me, takes my phone and throws it in the air behind him. I go after it and then realize it’s futile. The “peace team” walks me the rest of the way out. The protesters follow. We walk further. The protesters follow. Finally, a block away, I’m safe.
The peace team the man describes was actually the union captains and marshals. He would later share that they told him that if he just told the crowd that he agreed with them, everything would have been fine, but he refused to do it. His phone was used to terrorize his wife at home.
The man looked like a banker or a lawyer with nice dress clothes, and a well-kept appearance. I agree with my friend that he was targeted because he was dressed nice, he looked like the 1%, and he was easy to isolate.
No place to go
At that point, feeling dejected and without a home, I walked and began to cry. It was all too much. This is not how people treat one another…should not be how people are treated. You can’t disagree with these people, and unless you give up your principles, you can’t agree with them.
The noise coming from the rotunda was unreal. Occupy and teachers were stomping and chanting in the three levels circling the rotunda, while the first bill went to a vote.
After the bills were passed, and the crowds headed to throng the Romney building where the Governor has his office, I made my way to the capitol building. After writing about Lisa Fithian, well-known Occupy Wall Street activist/trainer last week, I recognized her on Floor 1 of the rotunda, leading college students in chants and a sit-in. She fell to the ground and led the children in wailing and moaning. I could not get onto Floor 1 of the rotunda at all because the police would not allow it.
How do you like that? Not a cop to be found protecting us from a mob, but Occupy Wall Street received police protection and plenty of space to lay down and have nice snapshots of the gorgeous iron dome. As I recorded, Fithian took a break and walked down the hall to relax in the office of House Minority Leader, Richard E. Hammel, Democrat.
The chanting still goes through my head. “Ain’t no power like the power of the people cuz the power of the people don’t stop.” “Say what?”
Who’s the elitist here? Who’s protected here? Who represented government here? Which people? The full power of the government protected the people who were working together with the criminals on the lawn.
I am the people. I am the ultimate minority, the individual.
I’m not the elitist that gets sweet government protection here. I’m not the elitist who is protected by law enforcement, yet I was just terrorized by my fellow man. My fellow man, no, strike that, they are not in fellowship and they are not men. They do not take responsibility, they will not show compassion for those dejected, they do not represent what is good, right and true.
The Big Picture
To the mob, those of us in the AFP tent symbolized the rich, the 1%, deceptive loophole abusers, the Republicans, the bankers. In their eyes, we were killing the middle class, and forcing them to accept lower wages. They had an opportunity to strike back at the people who they believed were oppressing them, and they accomplished what they had set out to do. They demoralized us, invaded our home, cursed and spat at us, shoved and punched us, and destroyed our home. 12,000 against what, 30 people?
In April of 2009, Obama threatened bankers saying, “My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks.” But that was a deception. He is the leader of the pitchforked mob. He is like the union captains and marshals, seemingly there to protect the security of the people, while enabling his own to close in on them with the purpose of destroying. To his people, Obama is their big-dog union representative who has the full force of government power at his command.
The filthy accusations, threats, and physical violence we endured on Tuesday was repeatedly explained to us by random union members. If we didn’t go “running our mouths” none of this had to happen. The violent mob won’t take any blame. Remind you of anyone?
By applying my observations to the current fiscal crisis, it is clear John Boehner doesn’t know what he is up against. Obama is interested in representing his people, not all people. Offering olive branches and reasoned debate are pointless. Claiming a moral high ground is useless. The only thing you can do to get along is give up your principles. Just like the surrounded man was told, “just agree, and you’ll be ok.” Just agree to all of it, and we can do business.
So Boehner agreed. Tax hikes on the rich in return for cuts in health spending and other, very stupid, misguided things. Obama said no. So now, John only has to give up on everything he proposed and agree with Obama about tax hikes, and he will have completely given up principle, so that he can get along. Again, Obama will be happy for him to give up on principle, but will not get along, and the mob will continue to press in as the next crisis comes along.
Where is the labor movement to go from here?
After the tent was down, I listened a bit to the microphone from across the street, telling union members that the first bill was passed. They vowed to fight on, and the man at the mike encouraged union members to stop being angry with the Chinese,”for we wish to partner with them.” It is no wonder that Bob King, head of the UAW is off seeking “foreign labor alliances” in Geneva.
Imagine the oppressed, beaten down world represented under one powerful union movement with Obama as the only one standing between them and the 18% of Americans who voted against him. Imagine further that labor rights will be championed across the globe, as fundamental rights, demeaning the intent of the United States Constitution and the free market.
Those of us who know what is happening cannot lose faith and give up, or the America that was established over 200 years ago will become some ancient legend, written off as a chapter in a book soon forgotten. Without us, the future is a police state, catering to those who have political clout and ignoring those who are on the wrong side of the majority. Without us, there is no America.
We the people who know and revere the Constitution know that our rights are not given to us by mere men, but by God. We are born with the right to peaceful protest, and the right to speak out. We must fight those who twist the meaning of the Constitution and its acknowledgement of our rights as men and women.
It’s going to take a long time now that Obama has been reelected. We are going through a very difficult and dangerous time period, and much more violence will happen. The media will not cover any of it, because they are not on our side. We are compelled to work together against these influences.
We can disagree with each other, as I have with the tactics of some in the big tent, and we will have little skirmishes of reason and logic. Let reason and logic and the Constitution prevail. But we cannot cut one another out, we cannot purge people from our tent, not now, lest the tent collapse upon us, and the civil society with it.
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