“Upsetting the Super Bowl—I couldn’t care less. This is about my life and my family.” —Lou Feldman, IBEW local 668
The sheer volume of the Super Bowl is overpowering: the corporate branding, the sexist beer ads, the miasma of Madison Avenue–produced militarism, the two-hour pre-game show. But people in the labor and Occupy movements in Indiana are attempting to drown out the din with the help of a human microphone right at the front gates of Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Republican-led state legislature aims to pass a law this week that would make Indiana a “right to work” state. For those uninitiated in Orwellian doublespeak, the term “right to work” ranks with “Operation Iraqi Freedom” and “Fair & Balanced” as a phrase of grotesque sophistry. In the reality-based community, “right to work” means smashing the state’s unions and making it harder for nonunion workplaces to get basic job protections. This has drawn peals of protest throughout the state, with the Occupy and labor movement front and center from small towns to Governor Mitch Daniels’s door at the State House. Daniels and friends timed this legislation with the Super Bowl. Whether that was simple arrogance or ill-timed idiocy, they made a reckless move. Now protests will be a part of the Super Bowl scenery in Indy.
The Super Bowl is perennially the Woodstock for the 1 percent: a Romneyesque cavalcade of private planes, private parties and private security. Combine that with this proposed legislation, and the people of Indiana will not let this orgy of excess go unoccupied. Just as the parties start a week in advance, so have the protests. More than 150 people—listed as seventy-five in USA Today, but I’ll go with eyewitness accounts—marched through last Saturday’s Super Bowl street fair in downtown Indianapolis with signs that read, “Occupy the Super Bowl,” “Fight the Lie” and “Workers United Will Prevail.” Occupy the Super Bowl has also become a T-shirt, posted for the world to see on the NBC Sports Blog.
The protests also promise to shed light on the reality of life for working families in the city of Indianapolis. Unemployment is at 13.3 percent, with unemployment for African-American families at 21 percent. Two of every five African-American families with a child under 5 live below the anemic poverty line. Such pain amidst the gloss of the Super Bowl and the prospect of right-to-work legislation is, for many, a catalyst to just do something.