PICKETS FOR UNIONS On Wisconsin’s side
Residents protest in support of union rights
Bartholomew Klick Copy editor
A man with long, gray hair and a coarse brown coat works his way through a crowd of protesters until he is in the small space where speakers had been gathering to denounce Wisconsin’s recent legislation against public employees and union workers. He waves his fist in the air and screams that he is sick of the government attacking the middle class.
About 70 people stood in the bitter cold outside the Miners Memorial off of 2nd and Broadway, holding colorful signs that showed support for Wisconsin workers and chastising supporters of Wisconsin Senate Bill 11, which restricts collective bargaining rights and caused a nearly month-long protest in Madison. From time to time, someone would emerge from the crowd and speak, recite poetry or lead the protesters in song.
The local protest began at 4 p.m. and went until about 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 9.
Lyn Caldwell, graduate student in English and organizer of the protest, says that the events in Wisconsin are important to Pittsburg because it’s “a working town,” with many teachers and a large population of union workers.
“This needs to be done everywhere in this country,” Caldwell said.
Caldwell organized the protest primarily using Facebook, where she created a public page called “Solidarity Rally Planning.” She says that this is how people found the protest.
“I opened it up and let everybody go to town,” Caldwell said.
Harry Humphries, associate professor of sociology, who came to the protest to show his support, says that this isn’t a coincidence. He says that recent uprisings in the Middle East have shown people worldwide that social media can be used to change government, and that this protest was evidence.
“What happened in Wisconsin was a spark,” Humphries said. “They fought too hard for this (collective bargaining rights) and they see what’s going on in the rest of the world.”
The crowd consisted of a mix of union workers, teachers and students, and was dotted with colorful signs that explained the protest in epigrams.
“Don’t suck Koch!” one of the protesters’ signs read, referring to Koch Industries Inc., a Wichita-based corporation whose owners, the Koch brothers, finance conservative movements. Another read, “How dare you call our teachers thugs!”
A trio of PSU students stood around a colorful sign held by Hannah Martin, senior in social science. The sign had artwork imitating the style of the late Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, which read, “I know @ the top you’re seeing great sights, but down @ the bottom, we too have rights!”
Martin says that the protest was visceral to her very nature.
“I’m a student,” Martin said. “I’m taught by teachers. Therefore, this affects me.”
Jessena Schultze, senior in social science, says she attended the protest to show her support for workers’ right to collective bargaining, and that protests like this one are absolutely effective.
“If we can bring people’s attention to this, if we can include just one more person in it, then it is worth our time,” Schultze said.
Kathleen Perry, senior in social science, says she was at the protest because people need to protest.
“Everyone thinks we don’t need unions anymore,” Perry said. “You can’t stop standing up for your rights. If you don’t tend to them, they’ll just disappear.”
Bill Caldwell, 65, and a member of the Northwest Missouri Central Labor Council, said he participated in the protest to help stop Missouri’s “Right to Work” bill, legislation that would stop employers and workers from negotiating contracts.
“People need to hear this,” Caldwell said. “It is a right-wing conspiracy against people that work for a living. ‘Right to Work’ is not going to pass!”