It’s no secret that Republican politicians and the like are generally anti-labor and anti-union. Ever since President Reagan’s famous shunning of the air traffic controllers, the consensus from the right has been to frame union leaders as “thugs,” so when I found out that those attending the Republican National Convention in Tampa were surrounded, quite literally, by union work, my irony meter lit up like a pinball machine.
The Tampa Bay Times Forum was built with government funding and union hands. Oh, and so was the actual convention stage the speakers are standing on.
“We built it!” was the chant of the crowd on the first day of the convention, as well as that of the politicians who continued to feed off the misinterpretation of a recent quote from President Obama. The chant is meant to inspire how an individual, without the help of government, can build a successful business and lifestyle with their own hard work and determination. It made me wonder just how many of the folks in attendance knew that the walls and roof that were keeping the rain out were built by union workers. Comedian Jon Stewart was quick to add his sharp wit when he joked on his show that the theme of the convention is a “salute to the union workers who built the state-funded Tampa Bay Times Forum.”
Not only is the building an example of union work, but the convention itself is union constructed! Rigging, lighting, steel work, carpentry, stage hands; all union. The political right’s insistence that a system of collective workers unifying their individual skills to create a better system of production is somehow something to be looked down upon continues to stagger me. Tommy Letourneau, of IATSE Local 321, told Gawker.com, “Our names are on it. It’s pride.”
Maybe some of the attendees will notice the beautiful setup of the convention and ask who put this whole thing together. Maybe they will recognize the quality work of organized labor and maybe, just maybe, a seed of respect will be planted. Maybe.