Activists use political theater to warn about 'Romney's America' and sign a Second Bill of Rights

08/30/12 Liz McKibbon
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During some speeches at the Republican convention unions have been a punching bag. In contrast, yesterday labor rights groups in Tampa used theater to demonstrate what the workforce might look like if Mitt Romney is elected as president. Protesters signed what they call America’s Second Bill of Rights.

Two to three hundred protesters rumbled through the sanctioned parade route in downtown Tampa, shouting ‘Stand up, fight back.’ Protestors held signs. One read: ‘If you can read this, thank a teacher.’ A woman wearing a black union of pipe fitters t-shirt held a sign reading ‘We’re your neighbors, not your enemy!’ John Carr works with the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations or AFL-CIO. Carr said citizens shouldn’t vote based on a single issue.

“The country wasn’t built on the 2nd Amendment; the country wasn’t built on Roe v Wade. But, truly, for all Americans from the very, very most wealthy to the poorest of the poor, the one thing that they all share in common is the economy. They all buy bread, they all drink milk. And if the economy is not functioning, the people it hurts the most are the people who can afford it the least.”

Carr said the Republican version of ‘trickle down economics’ doesn’t work.

”We believe the economic model that says that government has a legitimate role to play in ensuring our economy functions. So that when necessary they step in with stimulus, when it’s not necessary they reign in taxes and reign in inflation and that has worked. And the economy is on its way back and we want to see that continue.”

The group stopped to act out a scene of what they called Romney’s America. A man in a Mitt Romney mask held a suitcase full of giant money with the words ‘tax return’ painted across it. He distributed paper money to people holding cans with ‘minimum wage’ written on them. The actor wearing the Mitt Romney mask was Bill Brooks, president of the Union for city public works employees in Bradenton. His wife Glenda Brooks is also a city employee.

“I do work for a county municipality—a county myself. And you know we just want fair wages. And so many people—one of my co-workers she’s been with us for 7 years and she just went over the poverty level of over $25,000.” *“We don’t hold it against Romney for being a billionaire. We’ll shake is hand. We’re proud of you. But don’t ask me to work for your for $10 an hour.”*

Postal workers had a significant presence at the event. Donna Turuc has worked for the postal service for 18 years. She said her organization gets a bad wrap due to the misconception that the post office is sustained for by tax payers.

“We’re—people think we’re a government organization—no, the government—tax dollars don’t pay for us. The postage—if you don’t want to go buy stamps, if you don’t want to mail priority mail and you want to use UPS or FedEx, great! Do it! They get paid just as much as us—by the way—but they’re not under siege.”

Turuc said Republicans expect people to live without public assistance, but refuse to pay a reasonable wage.

“We have a union, but we are not allowed to strike. That’s part of our agreement with the government, so that we never, never stop the mail. We just negotiate our contract, and we sure negotiated a bad one last time for the benefit of the postal service where they brought in a bunch of people that get paid half the wage. And I’m sure those people are going to need some assistance. I’m a single mother of three I haven’t had to have assistance my whole life. No free lunch, no nothing, I couldn’t get a scholarship for my kid, because I made a decent wage.”

Other issues acted out by the political theater were having a voice at work, quality education and a secure and healthy future. Another was full participation in the electoral process. Voters approached a pretend poll worker. Numerous people were turned away for not having proper ID, including a student and a man with only a birth certificate.

“Who wants to try next?” “I vote, I vote.” “Hello, sir. What is your name?” “Hector Ramos.” “Hector Ramos. Let me see your ID, please… Hector Ramos, Hector Ramos. I’m sorry, sir. You are no longer on the list. You’ve been purged. I’m sorry, you should have checked.”

Protesters unfurled a giant banner printed with the five tenants of the group’s America’s Second Bill of Rights. Attendees signed the banner at the conclusion of the march. Two helicopters circled overhead throughout the event. As activists left the parade route, they were met with a school bus sized paddy-wagon and a group of about 100 observing police officers. The protest ended peacefully without police interference.

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USPS Comments

USPS employee Turuc hit the point home to the hard truths USPS employees are experiencing we need more to speak out about their struggles. Very Well Said!