Monday, February 28, 2011

Banging Gongs at a Union Rally

Published: The Huffington Post 2011.02.28

I really hate it when organizations parachute outside people into local situations.

The outside people think they know an area because they went to school in a city or town a decade or two before or they once had a cheesesteak when they came to Philly.

Everyplace is different.

I went to a rally Saturday in support of the folks fighting in Wisconsin. It was put on by a group whose name rhymes with Smooth-Con. They parachuted their person in from Washington DC -- always a bad idea. If you are coming from somewhere else -- the place to find the most clueless people to you locally is DC. At the start of her remarks she said how great it was to be back in town after going to Penn ten years ago. Great -- Ivy Leaguer from DC telling us what is going on in Philly.

Over the course of the next hour a variety of folks stepped up to talk from various local unions. That was okay except it was the same thing over and over. The speaker would be introduced by some chanting, and some of the speakers would go into some ranting (not all of them).

We all get that the people in Wisconsin are having a tough time of it. We appreciate and support and applaud their efforts. We get that it is good to have unions. That is why we were there. We were the converted. We were the choir being preached to.

Speaker after speaker got up to whip the crowd up into the chants. I was feeling like I was in some kind of a cult or something.

"We Have to Fight !"

"Unions Now !"

"Support the Teachers !"

Ok, I get it.

We stood and listened in front of the Love Statue near City Hall in Philly as union member after union member rallied the troops. But for what? It was a loud crowd yelling slogans. The organization could have been renamed Bang-Gong.

I was reminded of an old Bill Cosby routine where he's playing Temple Football and the coach's pregame speech fires everyone up to the point of Tasmanian Devils. The coach's frenzy ends with everyone ready to charge the field -- "LET'S GO GO GO" -- the team is yelling "LET'S GO GO GO" -- they run to the doors of the locker room to run to the field. Unfortunately, the doors open the wrong way and the entire team is crushed by their own enthusiasm.

I went there with the idea of hoping to speak on the fact that nominating petitions are now being circulated in Pennsylvania. I am looking for candidates for my local school board to help the teacher's union. When registering with the outfit that rhymes with Tooth-Pong the day before -- I stated I wanted to speak. In fact, when I got there an hour ahead of time to volunteer to help set up -- the organizer had gotten my message as well as an Allentown School Teacher who had driven in. We were both led to believe we'd be speaking. Even a legendary DJ from the region, Michael Tearson, showed up and offered his services. He was led to believe he would have a chance to speak.

As Michael Tearson would had said, if he got the chance, we are part of a continuum across all 50 states that is standing tall with those in Madison. The Teacher from Allentown wanted to emphasize how their group is getting the short end of the stick and needed help. The hour was spent yelling FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT. But what is needed is HELP, HELP, HELP.

Had I gotten the megaphone, I would have said all the yelling is well and good, but the unions have a real opportunity right here and right now not only to make their voices heard, but to affect real change.

Nominating Petitions are the way you get on the ballot here in PA. I am sure they are called something else where you live. You take a nominating petition and go to your neighbors and get them to sign it so YOU can get on the ballot. If you really want to support unions, you can get elected to a School Board, or a Board of Supervisors, or Selectmen in your town and go about really supporting Unions and Working People in a REAL way. Not screaming and yelling, but by being in a position where you CAN help the situation. I thought there were people in that crowd who could have run for office. Maybe a few of them could have won. But they need to be asked.

The real shame and crime of what I saw today was a huge stack of people fired-up and ready to go, but undirected to a place where they could actually get their needs met; at the ballot box. We are always going to have the evil of two lessers in November if we don't get people to step up in February and March. That is the door opening the wrong way. That is how our people are crushed by their own enthusiasm.

In PA we have about 10 more days to circulate our petitions -- to find good people willing to run.

After the hour-long rant, I asked the DC paratrooper why nothing was said about petitions. She said that her organization doesn't get involved in politics.

At that, the woman from the organization was Poof-Gone.

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