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Occupy Groups, Labor Unions Hope to Capture Super Bowl Audience

Common Dreams staff

Protesters march as Lucas Oil Stadium, where Super Bowl XLVI will take place this Sunday. Labor unions say Indiana's new right-to-work law will damage employees' rights.

Super Bowl Sunday, the largest single sporting event in the United States most years, is taking place today in Indianopolis and proponents of labor rights  and representatives of the Occupy movement hope to capitalize on some of the fanfare to make their voices heard.

The organizers said that they felt it was important to have a presence on this significant day. “The world’s eyes are going to be on Indianapolis”, said Jubin Rahatzad a doctoral student at Purdue University “it is important for everyone to know that Lucas Oil stadium was built with 100% union labor and the 'Right-to-Work' bill is legislation to destroy unions in this state and attack the livelihoods of ordinary people. I am here to raise awareness about the role of union labor in producing the Super Bowl at the home of the Indianapolis Colts”.

People have voiced concerns about protests on Sunday being disruptive of the Super Bowl. Tithi Bhattacharya, Professor at Purdue said the rally was about solidarity and not disruption. “There has been talk of a false choice, that between disrupting the Super Bowl and doing nothing on the day of the Super Bowl. Our group, which is composed of leading union militants and occupiers, rejects both options. We are here to protest Right to Work just like our allies in the NFL Player’s union who have so strongly condemned it.” Amy Shackelford from Central Indiana Jobs with Justice echoed that sentiment: “I believe that the only way we will achieve all of our goals and justice is by working together. The opposition wants to break our solidarity. We all need each other and that is the root of community”.

The Sunday protest has been called by several trade union activists, community organizers, and Occupy groups. Heath Hensley, a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and an Occupy Anderson member felt this was an important alliance between Occupy and organized labor in the fight against Right to Work: “The unions and the Occupy movement, after all we are one and the same. I am from the most fervent union background and belief, and I am the 99%! In these times as forces organize against us we must stand together in solidarity”.

The Sunday protest comes on the heels of one on Friday at the Hyatt Regency, organized by Unite Here. Hyatt management has threatened to fire several workers right after the Super Bowl. These are some of the lowest paid workers in the state and Hyatt is charging close to a $1000 for a night during Super Bowl weekend. Several Occupy chapters came to the picket on Saturday.

According to the Indianopolis Star:

The Occupy movement, known for its protests against Wall Street[...] plans a march through the Super Bowl Village on Sunday in protest of the state's new "right to work" law. [...]

Greg Lambert of the Occupy Indianapolis movement estimated 100 to 1,000 participants could take part each day in an Occupy the Super Bowl effort.

The effort is aimed mainly at the Indiana General Assembly's passage of what they term the union-busting measure just signed into law by Gov. Mitch Daniels.

"We want to do everything we can to ensure it remains peaceful," Lambert said Friday of this weekend's Occupy efforts.

"We don't want to disrupt anything. We just want to protest, for people to see us and hear our message," he said. "We're not going to interfere with people and what they are doing."

And Reuters reported earlier on Indiana's 'right-to-work' law, which is fueling much of the most recent anger in Indiana:

On Wednesday, Indiana became the 23rd state to pass right-to-work legislation, a measure that hits labor unions in the pocketbook by allowing organized workers to opt out of paying dues.

Indiana is the first state to adopt such a measure since Oklahoma did so a decade ago and the first right-to-work state in the nation's manufacturing heartland.

Gov. Mitch Daniels, in office since 2005 and a prominent spokesman for Republicans nationally, said he concluded Indiana needed the new law after several businesses decided to locate elsewhere.[...]

Organizers of the weekend protests against the controversial measure promised the action would be peaceful.

And the Huffington Post reported on Saturday:

Labor advocates say that Indiana's right-to-work law[...] will erode the political and financial strength of unions in that state. Supporters of the law say it will attract more companies to Indiana and kick-start job growth. Indiana is the 23rd state with a right-to-work law on the books, and the first in the Rust Belt, the central-northeastern part of the country historically associated with heavy industry.

This weekend's protests are part of what right-to-work opponents call an ongoing campaign to get the law repealed. They also represent a continuation of the alliance between organized labor and the Occupy movement, groups that share an interest in preserving working- and middle-class power. The visibility of Occupy protesters has dropped somewhat in recent months, with more and more cities taking measures to dispel long-term encampments, though the movement is still conspicuously active in New York, D.C., Miami, Oakland and other places.


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