“Eat the Rich?” Unions, Tea Parties Stage Opposing Denver Rallies

Union supporters rallied in Denver February 22 to support unions under political pressure in Wisconsin; Tea Party groups counter-protested at the bottom of the capitol steps. I conducted a number of interviews from both sides.

One dominant theme from the union side was that taxes should be higher, especially on the rich:

In the next video, union supporters call their opponents fascists and “tea baggers,” all in the spirit of the “new civility,” of course:

Next, union supporters chant “USA!” — to a backdrop of the Soviet hammer and sickle and the Mexican flag:

The next video offers a sense of the competing signs and chants.

I also captured some substantive interviews with both sides that I will release in independent posts over the coming days, so check back.


mtnrunner2 commented February 24, 2011 at 8:20 PM
Thanks Ari, for going there first-hand and posting these.

I think it’s possible to see the types of ideas advocated by each side and draw a proper conclusion about each side, yet there is still a rather huge elephant in the room: EXACTLY what powers are at stake, and are those powers JUST?

The Wisconsin conflict is presented by most media largely in the terms defined by the major political players, as “unions exploiting government” vs. “unions leveling the playing field on behalf of teachers”. But those positions are only derivatives of more fundamental premises.

Based on what I know of labor law, the NLRA coerces employers into sitting down with unions whether they choose to or not, for “arbitration” during a stalemate. This is one of the things that give unions an unjust upper hand beyond the simple negotiating power of a group. So I wonder in this case: what exactly are the rights at issue, and how do they differ from simply getting together as a group and negotiating with the government?

I also wonder: are public job unions significantly different from private job unions concerning the type of rights they ought to have? I wouldn’t think so.

If you know of any such analysis, I’d be interested to read it.

Paige commented February 24, 2011 at 9:43 PM
mtnrunner… it is not that companies are coerced to sit with unions in an arbitration during a stalemate it is that the contract the company agreed upon with the union states that arbitration will be used in the case of a stalemate when negotiating.

In any case arbitration is not used to negotiate a contract.. simply the company puts an offer on the table and the members of that union vote to accept to deny the offer. If the offer is denied the company goes back to the bargaining table.

I think the biggest misconception here is that labor unions do not have the upper hand, and they haven’t for a long time.. This is not the 1950’s when 1/4 people were part of a labor union… statistics say now only 1/10 are union members. Further, in Colorado, union members only make up 7% of the work force.

People need to stop thinking of unions as this overbearing force. The union would be nothing without members… members are the working people who pay dues to gain representation against the corporation against otherwise they would be helpless. A union is not run on millions of dollars,private jets, political power, or a CEO… it is simply run by the working people… the little poeple, the ones who teach your kids, patrol your roads, give you electricity, pipe your buildings, and bag your groceries… not trying to buy an opinion, just trying to voice one.

mtnrunner2 commented February 25, 2011 at 10:28 AM
Paige – The issue I am raising has nothing to do with who runs unions, or how many members they have, but with the exact power that public unions have in Wisconsin, and whether it is just or not.

The fact of the matter is that the NRLA outlaws entirely legitimate activities on the part of the employer. For example, the following is forbidden by law: “to refuse to bargain collectively with the representatives of his employees” – Section 8(a)(5). This forces companies to the table regardless of what they choose to do. It overrides their judgment by force of law, which most certainly gives unions the upper hand. So, it is not merely a misconception.

Just because someone (not necessarily you, but anyone) claims this benefits “the people” does not mean it’s true, or that it is morally right.

mtnrunner2 commented February 25, 2011 at 10:42 AM
Correction: NLRA.

Paige commented February 25, 2011 at 11:03 AM

The glory of the union is that the power rests in the hands of those employed. The national labor relations act was created to protect employees and to encourage collective bargaining. The NLRB is who as you put it coerces companies to collectively bargain whether they choose to do so or not.

This system is no different than any average person going to their boss and asking for a raise, increased benefits or increased pensions, except that its done on a much larger scale. Its simple for a large company to ignore the needs and requests of one employee, where as it is not so easy to ignore the needs and requests of your entire staff. The union is just a voice, a group of people united together so they can get recognized.

The NLRB can coerce the company to sit down and collectively bargain but they cannot dictate what they company puts down as an offer to its employees.

As for the issue is Wisconsin specifically, those public employees represented by unions have already said they are willing to take the cuts in their pension and their health plans, so this isn’t about the money. If it were, the govornor would have been happy with the concession. All the poeple want is to keep their right to collectively bargain, which Gov. Walker refuses to allow. This is not about fixing the deficit, this is about union busting.

Maybe on fixing the deficit the politicians, such as Gov. Walker should offer to take a cut in his pay, and health plan… i think that would get more people’s attention.