Michigan – Awakening the Sleeping Giant
I was pulled from my “sabbatical” in Austin when I got a phone call from Bob King’s office at the United Auto Workers. They said “ We are in an emergency and we broke the emergency glass and your name came out…can you please come help?” I have a long history working with the UAW and Bob King’s team and this was clearly a big fight so it was pretty hard to say NO. I even knew this was likely a losing battle, but I took my own advice when fighting a big fight - Let’s give ‘em hell as we go down! And that is what we did!
Gov. Snyder made it easy through his dishonesty, his railroading tactics and his anti-democratic actions like locking people out of the Capitol. A legal injunction declaring it unconstitutional opened the doors but not their minds. I arrived this day and began a 10 day journey working to turn this around, and while we lost this battle, we woke up and turn public support and energy into action. Gov. Snyder a very popular Gov saw his approval ratings plummet after the lame duck session to 38%
The Governor and the Republican lead House and Senate passed some outrageous legislation – over 220 bills passed in the lame duck alone. He sign the Right to Work law along with legislation that will further limit women’s access to abortion, citizenship signatures in order to vote and a measure that will allow hunting of wolves. He fortunately had the wisdom to veto one of the new laws that would have allowed guns in schools, churches and daycare centers….. Much of what the Gov. did was drawn directly from the playbook of the American Legislative Exchange Council, ALEC and was funded by people like the Koch Brothers.
There is no question we gave them a hell of a fight. We did actions in almost every major city across the state, mobilized to protest where ever the Gov. was. On Monday we did a dramatic blockade of one ramp to the bridge to Canada.
On a Tuesday, we took over the Capitol inside and out, with 17,000 people in a day of action. The police mobilized in kind with plenty of Riot police and pepper spray on hand that was used more than once.
I took this from inside the Capitol
Here Jessie Jackson joins the sit-in of the Capitol Rotunda
On Thursday we organized a dramatic torchlight march taking to the streets to keep the heat on! Huffington Post covered the Torch Light March here.
In all we generate over 225 pages of media hits. But media is not enough. The creative direct action opened up a new space for people to feel their power. The people of Michigan, especially the unions, have had a rude awakening that will require organizing in a whole new way. Building a people powered movement rooted in social unionism that bridges and brings together many movements ….I’m excited about what 2013 might bring and will continue to add my energy to that fight to make Michigan’s great union legacy of direct action against corporations vibrant again!