Pro Forma Protest

The public isn't moved by fake protests, pretend filibusters, and outsourced outrage

Unions often complain about American companies outsourcing jobs to cut labor costs. A union hiring day laborers to protest at construction sites instead of using union labor is just one of the ironies stacked on top of each other at the First Baptist Church in Dandridge.

What sort of hypocrisy does it take to criticize companies for trying to save labor costs when the unions do the same thing?

If you get around town you have seen the "Shame On" signs in front of various construction sites, from hospitals to doctor clinics and the church in Dandridge. If you didn't see the story in Saturday's News Sentinel, check it out in the archives. The union had a couple of guys picketing in front of the church on behalf of a carpenter's union because a subcontractor on the church construction project is not using union labor. It was "Shame on Pastor Brown." Turns out the "protesters" were 20 feet from the door to the church day care center and both were convicted sex offenders and as such they were violating the law that requires them to stay at least 1,000 feet away from children.

They were hauled off to the Jefferson County jail Friday.

We have a long and well settled tradition in this country of workers picketing what they consider unfair working conditions or pay issues. Though it is sometimes irritating, it's generally accepted that they have a right to do that, First Amendment and all that. But there is a difference between the workers at a plant or in a crafts industry protesting for their rights and a union that goes to a parking lot and picks up day laborers to go do the job for them.

What respect is due to people who are not protesting for their rights and privileges, but are instead exploiting unemployed day laborers who are desperate for a measly wage and jump at the chance to just sit or stand in front of a building all day and hold a sign?

It cheapens the labor movement and it demonstrates a mindset similar to that of big American businesses they criticize. Save some money. Go through meaningless rituals.

People fighting for their rights demand respect. Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks inspired a nation. The Al Sharptons of the world, not so much.

It may seem like a stretch, but the dysfunctional waste of time that is the Mid-South Carpenters Union reminds me of the U.S. Senate. That dysfunctional place of futile inaction has retained the form of historic protest, but they take shortcuts and go to extremes not to inconvenience themselves.

It is well known that you can't pass a bill these days because you have to have 60 votes to avoid a filibuster. When was the last time you saw a filibuster? No, they just say they will do it and everybody caves.

I remember when they actually had to filibuster—when Southern Democrats like Strom Thurmond and his cronies had to stand in the well for 24 hours to prevent a vote on the Civil Rights Act.

Imagine today if the Senate actually called for a vote on something important—like a budget, which they haven't passed in three years. What if they actually had to stand up and speak and really filibuster to prevent a vote? What if they had to stand there and tell the American people why they should not expect them to pass a budget to solve our financial woes and fund the government?

And today, in this era of the non-filibuster filibuster, we have C-Span. We could all watch, listen to the arguments, and make our judgments on the issue. And yes, it would be inconvenient for the millionaires' club that comprises the U.S. Senate to actually have to filibuster instead of just announce it.

Now and again you might catch Mr. Smith Goes to Washington on the old movie channel. It seems as quaint as watching a documentary on the Selma to Montgomery march for Civil Rights.