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Okay. I’ll admit it. My husband and I like the Clippers. You could almost call us fan. We buy tickets to at least one game every year.

I’m not a contrarian. I don’t root for the Clippers just because the Lakers are so dominant. I like the Lakers. I just can’t afford to go to their games.

Here are the reasons I love the Clippers:

  • I love the underdog (working in the labor movement who would have thought that would be true, right?).
  • I can actually afford seats and not everyone in stands during a Clippers game has never worked an honest day in their life.
  • It’s my hope that someday despite incompetent management, the Clippers themselves will pull themselves out of their funk and reach their potential. It’s been a long time coming, but when that day comes it’ll be all that much sweeter.
  • Clippers fans are loyal and I respect that.

So, I was excited on a recent Wednesday night because I was going to see a live Clippers game. And it would fit into my Buy Union! Challenge since the Clippers are unionized and Staples Center is unionized.

Blake_Grffin_DunkingI know. Millionaire basketball players aren’t usually who you think of when you think union member, but these guys on the court belong to the National Basketball Players Union.  Why some people might grumble that “it doesn’t count,” it absolutely does. Before NBA players unionized they averaged around $8,000 a year and many would have to work part-time jobs on the side just to get by. The NBPA is a shining example of how collective bargaining works... and have I mentioned that they play basketball, which is awesome!

We arrived early to the game. The only unionized parking facilities I’ve been able to find in Los Angeles is Ace Parking represented by the Teamsters, but they don’t have any facilities near Staples so we decided to save some money, get some exercise and park on the street several blocks from Staples. The streets are maintained by unionized city workers, so that counts as union. It’s not buying union, but it’s using union and at least I’m not buying non-union.

The walk to Staples Center was nice. We didn’t park in the best neighborhood, but within a block we were within the outer reaches of the tremendous expansion of downtown development which has occurred over the last five years. Walking arm and arm with my husband, pointing out various landmarks our affiliates had worked on, I can’t tell you how proud I was.

Downtown used to be depressing and now it looks like … a real city. It’s vibrant and worldly. Alive. I can’t tell you how long the building trades fought for this. It must have been 15 solid years of meetings and rallies and discussions and plans… on and on and on and we finally got it done. Downtown L.A. used to be a place of decay just a few short years ago and now it looks like something special. It looks like something we as a city can be proud of.

I publish Building Trades News which is the official newspaper of the building trades for Los Angeles County. One thing you get being close to people in the building trades is you get to know the sense of pride that they feel in their work. That feeling of completion. That feeling of looking at a beautiful building, knowing it’ll stand for 100 years and thinking, “I built that.” Looking over the redevelopment of Downtown Los Angeles, I got the chills a little bit (and it wasn’t just because it was cold out). I know in some small way our publication by beating the same drum for 15 years helped make this all happen. It felt good.

We walked up to Staples Center and it’s always an impressive sight. Very modern, very sleek. There’s a reason it is one of the most recognized arenas in America. It should be.

We entered the building quickly and took the steps up to our not-quite nosebleed seats while the players warmed up. My husband, being the gentleman that he is, went to the concession stand (staffed by UNITE-HERE) to buy us some union-made beer (Budweiser!).  While he was gone I looked across this magnificent building and thought about all the union hands that built it and all the union lives that maintain it now.

This is a place where one of the greatest championship series in history was won this year (Lakers versus Celtics in Seven) and it couldn’t have happened without union players, union workers, and union builders. Because I’m part of the movement, I can really appreciate it. It just another case of those in the know understanding the importance unions play in our daily lives. It’s a shame more people don’t realize how union members touch their lives in so many wonderful ways every day. We need to do more to change that

My darling husband soon returned with our extra-large beers and we got rowdy! Our Clippers somehow managed to beat the team with the best record in the NBA—the San Antonio Spurs—90-85. It was fantastic especially considering that it was only their fourth win of the year! This rookie Blake Griffin is the real deal! 31 points and 13 rebounds! Wow.

See? Sometimes the underdog does win after all. WOOOHOOO!!!

I got to see my team play, spend time downtown in the city I love, and complete another successful Buy Union! Challenge.

Things could be a lot worse.

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