February 5, 2012

The Superbowl, the People's Daily Campaign for Jobs & Justice, and the African-American Freedom Struggle

While the media attempts to make major news out of the small size of the labor demonstration at Lucas Oil Stadium protesting Indiana's new so-called "right to work" law, this entirely misses significance of the National Football League Players Association statement opposing this legislation.

The NFLPA wrote:
“‘Right-to-work’ is a political ploy designed to destroy basic workers’ rights. It’s not about jobs or rights, and it’s the wrong priority for Indiana. It is important to keep in mind the plight of the average Indiana worker and not let them get lost in the ceremony and spectacle of the Super Bowl."

As Jamilah King noted in the online journal Colorlines
"The statement was hugely important, considering what’s at stake for Indiana’s workers, particularly black ones. Black workers are disproportionately union members. They’re more likely than whites, Asians, and Latinos to be in public-unions, and make up 15 percent of total membership, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Historically, unions have been crucial gateways for black workers to earn higher wages and break into the middle class.

While supporters of Right to Work argue that the laws are needed to foster a “pro-business” atmosphere that helps generate desperately needed jobs, research has shown that the laws can have disastrous effects on workers. The Economic Policy Institute released a report in January showing that workers employed in Right to Work states makes less money and are less likely to be offered health care."
DeMaurice F. Smith, executive director of the player’s union, pressed the point even further in an op-ed published a week later in one of Indiana’s most widely read newspapers. ” An indisputable lesson of our American history is that none of those workplace protections came as a gift from corporations,” wrote Smith, who’d previously made a name for him self as a hard-nosed litigator. “Rather, all of them resulted from the ability of workers to stand united and demand change when it would have been easy to fire or silence the voice of a single worker.”

But what does this have to do with the New Jersey-based coalition for jobs and justice that  has sponsored daily demonstrations for the past 225 days? When the People's Organization for Progress proposed this campaign last July, we understood the need to defend union jobs. But more than that, we also understood that elected officials who claimed to support the right to organize (like our own NJ governor, Krispy Kreme Christy) while insisting that this right to unionize shouldn't apply to state workers, weren't simply attacking union workers, they were attacking the living standard of African-American workers in particular.

Just as school vouchers are not simply attacks on public education, statements challenging public-sector workers' right to unionize are directed at Black and other minority workers in particular.

As we celebrate the Giants exciting victory over the Patriots, we must appreciate what the players of both teams (and all NFL players) recognized before the game, what was at stake at the Lucas Oil Stadium had nothing to do with a NY-NJ team vs a New England franchise. The challenge in Indiana was (and is) about our very right to survive…

1 comment:

Bondi said...

POP friend (and national labor leader) William Fletcher, Jr. recently shared a follow-up on the National Football League Players Association vs. Indiana "Right to Work" legislation story that Rah posted here. Bill shared a rabidly anti-labor commercial seen in the DC-area during the Super Bowl. Corporate Front Group Airs Misleading Anti-Union Ad During Super Bowl. On this page is a link to view the so-called "Center For Union Facts" advertisement that ran during Super Bowl XLVI.