Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Protesting is Not a Crime

At the height of Occupy last year, I was talking with a dad at my kids' school and he said, "can you believe that some parents take their kids to PROTESTS?"(He didn't realize he was talking to a union mom whose kids' hands are calloused from holding picket signs).

I wanted to explain that protesting hadn't always been so, well, so UNSAFE as it was proving to be in October/November of 2011.  I also wanted to point out that it was, in fact, still a legal right.

But legal or not, the image of riot police at every show of dissent is psychologically chilling. I'm sure that that's the point. And I'm sure that many parents as well as many individuals are thinking twice about showing up.

So far, I haven't seen union picket lines getting the same riot police treatment as Occupy. But, yesterday, when striking Walmart workers and their community allies staged a peaceful protest, riot police were sent in.

This is beyond disturbing:  These workers and community allies are exercising their right to free speech. And the workers were exercising their right to protected concerted activity when they spoke up about the dismal working conditions, wage theft and discrimination they face on the job.

The warehouse workers who went on strike work for a key distribution center for Walmart in Illinois.  They were incredibly brave for speaking out about working conditions and non-payment of overtime and regular wages. For background read the article by Erica Smiley on the Jobs with Justice Site.

It seems like as working conditions get worse and people protest, the police repression ramp ups even further to protect the interests of companies like Walmart - even as they break the law by not paying wages!  I think we have to start doing what the community allies are doing in Illinois and stand with Walmart workers and all workers who are bravely pushing back - union or non-union.  We have to exercise our right to free speech, protected concerted activity, and decent working conditions for every worker.

The statewide coalition I work with is hosting a Community Meeting with Walmart workers in Northern California this week to find out how we can support them in their fight.  You can contact us at info@working-families.org or e-mail me for more information. You can also go to the Jobs with Justice website above to find out about local actions and events where you live.  This is such an important fight and such an important time to stand together. 

Remember - solidarity is our right and protesting is not a crime.  Go to one this week.  See you there!


  1. Essentially protesting is not a crime, but the methods used are very annoying and seem rather unproductive to me. I don't see where freedom of speech should include a lot of shouting and use of noisemakers. All I see is a mob of people who don't appear to think clearly for themselves or communicate on their own. I believe this mob consists of puppets being manipulated by union organizers with suspect motives.

    Is there a website or someplace I can go where I can find out how much the organizers and the union bosses are paid and what their affiliations are? Call me suspicious because I don't trust some of the motivation here.

  2. Ask me, I worked for a union for years and I think the highest level of pay I got was $40,000 - and I worked hard for it too! Now I'm a union member and make a bit more but that may be cost of living increases etc. - I have been in my current job a long time.

    If you're worried about the pay of union leaders, I'm sure you can look it up - there are anti-union sites that have this info but they don't always use it because it's so disappointingly low - nothing compared the the millions that corporate CEOs make!

    I don't think people who are brave enough to fight for a living wage and decent working conditions are manipulated or puppets of anyone. I do wonder if the people who say that they should not be doing this are being manipulated, though.

    Thanks for your comment!