From the Trenches: Capitol Rally Reflections
3/16/2011 10:29 AM
On Saturday, February 26, 2011, CSUEU Board of Directors members took a break from their Sacramento meeting and marched to the State Capitol to make their voices heard at a rally in support of Wisconsin workers.
Despite the last-minute nature of the rally, it was important we attended. We marched, chanting about the power of unions and collective bargaining and promoting solidarity in the face of attacks on our hard-fought rights. We also faced the jeers and attacks of a group called Tea Party United, taunting us as communists, Nazis, whiners and other names. Members of this group were also within the crowd at the rally, spreading dissent by vocally opposing the speakers to anyone within earshot.
On the way back, we marched through Tea Party United, whose members blocked our march route. One ambitious Teamster who was not even part of our group got into a brief scrap with a Tea Party United counter-protestor. You may have seen our own CSUEU Chapter 321 (BOOM!) President Mike Geck in a cameo role on Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report in the red bandana (he can be seen in the background of a video clip featuring the confrontation).
The true value of our attendance at the rally, though, was in the effect on our members. I wanted to provide you the following reflection from the CSUEU Organizing Committee’s Sandee Noda.
“On my drive home from Sacramento on Sunday evening, I had time to reflect upon some of the events that happened this weekend. I want to share with all of you my experience at the CSUEU Board of Directors meeting.
Let me preface this by writing that, just a little over a year ago today, my whirlwind tour of union activism began. Those of you who have known me for a while know that I am probably the last person you would think would be participating in a rally in Sacramento. I have always been the quiet and shy person that has a hard time getting out of my “comfort zone.” I was the one who, during past rallies, offered to watch everyone’s personal belongings, but I had no excuse this time. As a member of the Statewide Organizing Committee, I knew I had to be at the rally with my union brothers and sisters.
The Board of Directors meeting was the perfect opportunity to show our support for the Wisconsin workers and union/public workers all over the United States. On Saturday morning, we made signs for the rally and walked from the Holiday Inn to the State Capitol, chanting all the way there. It was refreshing to see people of all ages showing their support. Pat Gantt, the president of the CSUEU (our union) spoke to the rally, energizing the crowd from the steps of the Capitol building.
I encourage all of you to involve yourselves in similar activities when opportunities arise. Take along a friend--it makes it easier and more fun to participate. (Do you really think I could have made it through my first rally without my union family?) Make the time to show your support in what you believe in. There will be many opportunities to do so in the near future. Saturday was my first rally, and it won’t be the last! It was a life learning experience for me!”
Capitol Rally Links
- CSUEU Report on the Capitol Rally - Link
- CSUEU Photos from the Capitol Rally - Link
- CSUEU President Pat Gantt Delivers a Rousing Speech - Link
- CSUEU Chapter 321 President Mike Geck on The Colbert Report - Link (at 2:58 in)
It had been unthinkable that Wisconsin, birthplace of the modern American labor movement and home of AFSCME, would face such an attack. While traveling to chapters in support of the November 2010 election, I told the crowds that it only takes the stroke of a pen to destroy our collective bargaining rights. Many in the crowd rolled their eyes, believing it couldn’t happen. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has now done just that. The pen is truly mightier than the sword.
We need solidarity and unity in these times. We also need to develop a sense of union culture. We cannot bargain or grieve our way out of the threats we face. It is going to take all of us.
Carmen Carswell, Chapter Organizing Chair for Chapter 320 (San Bernardino), has given us permission to re-post this poem, previously published in University Employee, our union newspaper:
What/who is the union?
What is the union?
Or should I say who?
I am somewhat curious
As to what they really do!
I never see the union
But I know that they exist
Because from my monthly
Paycheck I pay a fee for it!
So tell me who the union is.
And what it is they do.
I’d really like to know
who my money’s going to!
Without the U in union,
It wouldn’t be the same.
The strength of any union
Is the first letter in its name!
You ARE the union. Despite all the differences we might have, we all need to stand for our rights. Our working world would look a lot different without collective bargaining rights. We would have no one on our side in employer-employee disputes. You could be fired just because they don’t like you. Exempt employees could be pushed to work 60 hours a week. Our salaries could be slashed in a heartbeat because of “fiscal crisis.” We could see increases in our health premiums, the destruction of our pensions, and a return to employer nepotism. Those benefits are gone in Wisconsin and under attack in many other states.
Tired of sitting back? Contact your local chapter and GET INVOLVED! We need all hands on deck.
Joseph Dobzynski, Jr.
California State University Employees Union
Vice-President for Member Engagement
Statewide Organizing Committee - Chair
Editor's Note: The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of CSUEU or its members.
2 comment(s) so far...
By carmen carswell on
3/16/2011 8:46 PM
Re: From the Trenches: Capitol Rally Reflections
Thank you for re-posting my poem! We are having a Chapter meeting on March 24th and I plan to use this poem among others to get our point across. It is important for our members to know that the union is not the E-board, the union is only as strong as it's members!
By Tessy Reese on
3/24/2011 1:56 PM
Re: From the Trenches: Capitol Rally Reflections
I will also be using your Poem tomorrw Carmen while I give SDSU Chapter 318 updatre Bargaining 101 at our chapter meeting. Nicely wriiten short and to the point. :)