So it seems Halftime at the Super Bowl (as well as pre, post and during game) will be the stage to air recent and long-standing grievance by unionized blue-collar workers. It will not be unlike the motivation to OCCUPY STAGES here in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, by a Stagehands Union (IATSE Local 3) being circumvented by the elite Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, a downtown development company in the entertainment business. Raising public awareness of the plight of the stagehands, part of Pittsburgh’s proud working class, is critical not only to their being able to make a living, but serves good example of all of the working class, including those ‘hands, carpenters electricians and the like in Indiana.
IATSE Local 3 members are under-employed. You’d think a city with vibrant cultural district would have plenty of work for arts professionals. But the Cultural Trust is playing the same shell game that some concert promoters and club owners do– subcontracting non-union people to rig stages and run sound and lights (all while fooling their worker into thinking that his $12/ hr. with no benefits or workplace regulations (protecting him and the public) is the best he can get.
Local 3 decided to hand out informational pamphlets early in the day downtown on New Year’s Eve, so as not to appear to be ruining the family festivities of our city’s First Night. But they had every right to appear in the evening, had they chosen, to bring their cause to the forefront– something the Pgh. Cultural Trust, the City of Pittsburgh and others, apparently, think they shouldn’t be doing.
A familiar theme. “[The unions’] unnecessary roughness will cost the Hoosiers needed jobs” (McClatchy/Tribune 1/25/12). What’s the roughness? Union members saying “they want to hold marches, slow down beer deliveries or hand out leaflets in the Super Bowl crowd… while others have hinted at more drastic measures” (Investors.com 1/20/12).
Equally, some Pittsburghers think IATSE is “bullying” the City and should not argue for what should fairly be their work on projects for organizations funded with mega-public dollars and whose administrators pull in high salaries.
Now, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney recently mentioned that he felt income inequality issues in this country should only be talked about “in quiet rooms.” (How genteel of the multi-millionaire.) And the reaction to President Obama’s common-sense State of the Union recommendations drew cries of “class warfare” from the wealthy (and those that stupidly think the wealthy have their best interest at heart).
Class warfare? You bet, when the corporate conservatives have always (and especially now) made class warfare a point– attempting to fit working and middle-class worklife into a definition that doesn’t threaten their own cozy lifestyles. American white-collar workers (and on up the ladder)– in professions long-valued, with awarded large salaries–would rather not think on those things. The awards of union representation– a middle-class life to what instead would have made them the “working poor”– are far removed from the comfortable lives of… whoever is still comfortable in this country. (Lately, more and more administrative-level white-collar workers are in the same boat as the sinking blue-collar.)
You can’t get any more talent and working-class, both, than a seasoned stagehand– They build scenery on Broadway and make sure U2 sounds cool in football stadiums, with everyone safe under state-of-the-art equipment perched precipitously above. They run sound and lights for Symphonies and seamlessly work together to unload semis with half-ton show equipment in dark of night.
Though support for the Pgh. Stagehands far outweighs resistance, money and power are with those trying to benefit off the backs of the seasoned professionals they diss. One Letter to the Editor of the major newspaper, in reaction to an article by this writer in the Business Forum, suggested that “IATSE rates inside theaters have gone so high many local companies can no longer afford performances there.” This, from a city council president chief of staff and aspiring politician herself, who utterly gets the facts wrong.
Local 3’s rates span $17-$23.50/ hr. and they offered to work Pittsburgh’s First Night event at the low-end of that spectrum. Pgh. Cultural Trust President Kevin McMahon said the non-union workers he hires for it, and the other Trust- controlled outdoor stages the Trust has its hands on) work for $20.50 (Pgh. Post-Gazette, 12/18/11)– somehow saving the organization from “rais[ing] the price of putting on the events” if they hired union (Pgh.City Paper, 12/30/11)?
Makes no sense, right? And there is little doubt that what is transpiring in Pittsburgh between its elite cultural powerhouse and union stagehands is happening all across the country, with other arts-workers, artists… and certainly other members of the skilled working classes who belong to unions that fight against corporate interest on their behalf. Indeed their brothers and sisters are stagehands, electricians, carpenters and others preparing the Super Bowl event.
These individuals have every right to talk about it in loud, noisy public forums, not quiet rooms.
Unions don’t cost state’s “needed jobs”– unless the jobs that those in power want are for a “working poor.” And as much as the elite would have the non-thinking person believe otherwise, union members don’t ruin events by airing significant justified grievance. Despite efforts to fool you, it is that very elite that have tainted the playing field.
“It would be a horrible mistake to use the Super Bowl in this way, and I think it would backfire terribly,” stated Brian Bosma, Republican speaker of the Indiana House, noting that “some extreme opponents might try to leverage this.” (M. Davey, New York Times 1/22/12) You bet unions will try to leverage it– they are in a fight for decent middle-class jobs that the 1% of this country (and those that think the 1% have their back) want to push further down the ladder.
How funny that unions get slammed when corporations (and city governments lobbied by corporate money) are threatened by the voice of Labor. Their voice is about all they have. Despite corporate lies to the contrary, Labor’s money can never compete with Big Money.
Smart Pittsburghers know better, those that honor the Steelworker sweat and blood of this region– “It is not corporations that gave us… safe working places, health care, a living wage, sick pay, seniority, paid vacations, etc. It was the banding together of men and women from all walks of life to join a union and take pride in their work and their lives. Business today is in a race to achieve the greatest profit with the lowest payroll possible” (William D. Moutz Sr., Post-Gazette Letter to the Editor 1/21/12) Another speaks of her husband, laid off from a local mill and only able to find work paying $7.50/hr– “If manufacturers want high-quality, skilled labor, then they should be prepared to pay for it. [He] is an experienced machinist. He was …making $17.50 an hour” (Maureen Kowlaski, ibid.)
$17.50 an hour– apparently too much to pay in America for someone with those skills. Machinists, stagehands, and so many others of the working class can’t make a decent living as it is, despite the fact that they are professionals at what they do. It is time they stand up to the 1%.
The AFL-CIO of Indiana had not yet decided (at least before last night’s legislation) upon a concerted course of action for the Super Bowl. Let’s hope they throw a touchdown– not buying the corporate ploy that citizens will be turned off. If citizens are turned off, then shame on America. It would just show all the more necessary work to be done.
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