Posts Tagged ‘Wisconsin protesters’

Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.

March 1st, 2011

This past Sunday, I attended a rally here in Burlington in support of the Wisconsin protesters.  About 250 people stood at the top of Church Street in the raw, biting cold, listening to speeches for half an hour, after which we all walked down to the bottom end of Church Street, in front of City Hall, and I left the group, my feet at that point having started to ache icily.  To my eye, the crowd consisted mainly of people in their forties and fifties, with a smattering of younger folk.  I had told my nineteen year old son that morning of my plans to attend the rally, and he looked at me and said, “Oh, so people still do that?”

The speakers all were eloquent and blessedly brief and to the point.  Among them was my boss, Attorney General William Sorrell, the only statewide elected official to put in a personal appearance, although representatives of Senators Leahy and Sanders and Representative Welch all delivered strong messages.  I have heard Bill speak in public a number of times, and have not tended to think of oratory as his strong suit.  He is thoughtful and deliberate and says “um” a lot.  This day, however, he was in fine form, fluent and direct and full-throatedly impassioned, and he really warmed the crowd up.  We needed it.  I think the subject of workers’ rights drew out the best in him.

While Bill was working the crowd into a frenzy, I thought about my paternal grandfather, Isidor Stenzor, may he rest in peace, who came to this country from Poland a hundred years ago and gave the rest of his life to the union movement.  Although he has been dead some thirty years, I can still hear his basso voice rumbling, “You kids don’t know the struggles we went through.”  I found myself wondering what he would say if he knew that today, 75 years after FDR signed the National Labor Relations Act into law, thousands of people are finding it necessary to take to the streets in the dead of winter to defend workers’ basic rights to organize.  He probably would not have been surprised.  He was a very practical and realistic man, and he knew that the rich are always with us.  Hanging in my closet is a wool coat that belonged to him.  I think I’ll wear it to the next rally, so that he can be with us as the struggle continues.

The other day, I heard a woman say on the radio, “I think maybe unions served a purpose in this country once upon a time, but maybe not any more.”  I wanted to say to her, “Yes, as soon as Governor Walker gets off the phone with David Koch I’m sure he’ll take your call.”  My Zaide Izzy would have liked this joke, which answers her perfectly.  A CEO, a unionized public employee, and a Tea Party stalwart are sitting around a table.  In the center of the table is a plate with a dozen cookies on it.  The CEO reaches over and takes eleven of them.  He then turns to the Tea Partyer and says, “You better watch out for that union guy.  He wants a piece of your cookie.”