Freedom to Work vs. Union Thugs in Michigan
Dec 13, 2012 at 11:32 AM
I didn't go to sleep the night before. I briskly showered at 3 a.m. and was on the road by 4 a.m. to make the trip to Lansing.
The dew was still frozen to the Capitol building's lawn when my party and I walked up around 8:30. The streets were busy with people fluttering about and barricades were erect in the streets, closing off the block.
We made our way into the Capitol building. The presence of the Boys in Blue was a bit astonishing at first. I was taken aback—perhaps anxious or apprehensive—at the sight of SWAT team members adorned in full riot gear. The gravity of the coming day's events began to set in.
The tall ceilings and innate detailing in the Capitol's architecture was surely marveling. The smell was musky and crisp. But the sound -- oh the sound! As I ascended the first flight of stairs, I entered the main atrium where mumbled chants were audible. I jauntily made my way down the atrium towards the centrally-located rotunda.
"Hey, hey, ho ho! Union power is on the go!"
"Lies and tricks will not divide, Workers standing side by side!"
"What's disgusting? Union busting!"
Union backers on the three levels above me swarmed in a circle around the dome. A ringleader in funny looking garb shouted the marching orders to the rest of the mob through a megaphone. So this is what we were up against? I began doubting my decision to skip work and drive the long distance to come. This was going to be easy. I cracked my knuckles, stretched my neck, and cleared my head with an elongated sigh. Time to get to work: time to spread Liberty.
Back outside, two large tents were erected. Friends at Americans for Prosperity had begun to man one of them. Union workers dressed in hard hats, Carhartts, and sunglasses began to arrive from their busing locations from across the nation. They darted about, waved picket signs with hackneyed union phrases on them, and berated the Freedom to Work champions in between puffs of their malodorous cigarettes.
The media crews congregated and swarmed around the Capitol grounds like locusts. A helicopter hovered above like a large clamorous metal hummingbird. Mounted police sat atop their mustangs ready to take contemplating malefactors out to pasture. The union backers' angry chants became increasingly loud.
Once the Americans for Prosperity sign was hung outside the tent, it transformed into a bullseye: the freedom-to-work protesters now had a target to concentrate all their misguided anger on. Many stopped in the entrance of the tent to peak in and see what was going on just to remedy their curiosity. Others would stop, yell something abominable like, "You all are just a bunch of f*cking fascist freeloaders!" and move on. Then there were the "Leaches": angry protesters that stopped, yelled their abominable rant, got a friendly response from a fellow freedom-to-work activist, engaged in debate on the issue, and finally, decided to stick around after their debate loss to further heckle and attack their opposition.
The Leaches amassed slowly over the course of the morning but once they came, they lived up to their name, true to form. Freedom-to-work supporters spawned from the bowels of the tent after a quick caffeine injection and hot dog to relieve their fellow paladins outside the beleaguered tent. The war for freedom-to-work legislation in the provenance of Big Labor was now in full swing.
I sashayed aimlessly from debate to debate, observing the discourse and one-sided name-calling. I would offer my two thin coppers at my discretion. Leaches had now surrounded the entire tent and not just the entrances on either end. Air horns were weaseled through the openings where the walls met the roof and blown. Many Leaches started to use wooden sticks to beat on plastic, five-gallon buckets, taking me down Memory Lane to tactics I had witnessed during various Occupy meet-ups I had frequented just a year ago.
My feet had become numb. The day was overcast and wintry which is expected of December weather in the Rust Belt. I made myself into the tent to warm up and grab a cup-o-joe. As I poured my coffee, I looked up to smile to the person next to me—only to realize the union insignia on the breast of their jacket. The familiar face was one of the Leaches I had engaged with outside. Instead of a friendly smile, I'm sure I displayed an awkward coup d'oeil. I quickly sipped the coffee and turned away. How mettlesome! How mischievous! How foolish!
I made my way to the tent opening and started a friendly conversation with a captivating young lady. We chatted on and laughed about the spectacle in front of us. I had already witnessed multiple physical scuffles but they were disbanded quickly by volunteers walking around in florescent vests called the "Peace Team." For the most part, they were inconsequential. When another scuffle started in front of the young lady and I, we were pushed back into the tent. This one seemed different. It was louder. It was far more physical in terms of pushing. More importantly, there was a sense that the Leaches had went into full-on mob mode.
The Leaches wanted the tent gone. They yelled it and chanted it. They called orders to others to help them accomplish their mission. They made the push for it.
With knives and box cutters, the Leaches cut the rigging holding the tent poles straight in the northeast corner. Instinctively, I ran to the corner to push the supporting pole back into position. Two other gentlemen helped me push as more and more Leaches jumped on the opposite side. I looked over my shoulder to call for more help but was silenced when I watched a man run up to the table filled with catering equipment and coffee dispensers and flip it over. Steam flooded that end of the tent and people rushed to the scene. The man ran out, the mob ran in.
The forces on the other side of the pole became too great. I decided to cut my losses and try to find a more effective way to help. I knew the tent was going down -- in my gut and mind it had already happened. I ran over to a table where the hot dogs were being served. There was catering equipment with nacho cheese and meat in them and I knew if the tent went down, they would be a fire hazard. I decided that all the warming equipment needed to go on the ground, under the table that they were on. I went to work. I got three tables down and then the tent collapsed fully, leaving me trapped underneath its weight. From the outside of the tent, I heard the uproar of cheering. On my hands and knees, I crawled towards the light were I was greeted by the thugs.
After I had dusted myself off, I scanned the area for a familiar face. Then one popped out from underneath the tent only feet from where I had got out: it was the pleasant young lady I had started conversation with at the mouth of the tent only moments earlier. I helped her up and ushered her away from the mob that was pushing itself onto the collapsed tent.
I split ways with the young lady and went on a search to find the party I had came with. About ten minutes later, a long line of Troopers came marching in with members of the SWAT team and following up the rear, the mounted police. The presence of law enforcement quickly turned the mob's intensity knob down a few notches. Glass from the tent's lights and random beer bottles scattered the top of the collapsed tent.
Rev. Jesse Jackson showed up to speak to the mob. I listened in as I made my way to the legislative offices. I got a call from my buddy informing me he was there and that his tablet and glasses were missing—they had been inside the tent. We waited in the lobby for our other friends, got our credentials, and headed up to the 13th floor to meet with some others and figure out our next move.
In the end, we were able to recover the missing goods, the freedom-to-work legislation was signed by Gov. Snyder, and our party celebrated by going to a local establishment for some appetizers and select brew.
It really is profoundly amazing that this legislation was passed in Michigan considering this state was the birthplace of Big Labor. It is a big step to reining back the incredible control that union boss thugs have unabashedly stole through the years. Perhaps California, New York, or Illinois are next? For the sake of Liberty, we can only hope.
Keith Maskell is the Michigan State Chair for Young Americans for Liberty. He can be reached at email@example.com.