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Feb 3 / Elizabeth DiNovella

Occupy the Super Bowl

All eyes will be on Indianapolis this weekend as it hosts Super Bowl XLVI. And while the Green Bay Packers are (shockingly) not in the Super Bowl this year, Indiana does seem a lot like Wisconsin these days.

Both states have Republican majorities in their statehouses and a GOP governor. And both are passing anti-union legislation.

In Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker and the GOP legislators went after public sector unions and passed laws that limited collective bargaining rights.

In Indiana, Governor Mitch Daniels and the GOP have set their sights on private sector unions. Daniels just signed a “Right to Work” bill into law. This measure prohibits private sector workplaces from requiring workers to pay dues or other fees to join a union. Indiana is the twenty-third state to adopt this type of legislation, but the first state in the Rust Belt. It’s been more than a decade since a state has passed such a law.

In both Wisconsin and Indiana, people are resisting these assaults. Last year, Badgers protested in massive numbers and occupied the capitol building. This year, Hoosiers protested in big numbers. And now they are talking about occupying the Super Bowl.

Last year, Charles Woodsen, Green Bay Packers cornerback and one of the team’s elected representatives to the NFL’s players union, released a statement supporting Wisconsin’s working families. “Thousands of dedicated Wisconsin public workers provide vital services for Wisconsin citizens. They are the teachers, nurses and child care workers who take care of us and our families. These hard working people are under an unprecedented attack to take away their basic rights to have a voice and collectively bargain at work.”

This year, quarterbacks Jay Cutler of the Chicago Bears and Rex Grossman of the Washington Redskins, along with other NFL players, sent letters to Indiana House members, urging them to oppose the right-to-work legislation.

The NFL’s players union released a statement about Indiana’s new law, too. It reads: “NFL players know what it means to fight for workers’ rights, better pensions and health and safety in the workplace. To win, we have to work together and look out for one another. Today, even as the city of Indianapolis is exemplifying that teamwork in preparing to host the Super Bowl, politicians are looking to destroy it trying to ram through so-called ‘right-to-work’ legislation. ‘Right-to-work’ is a political ploy designed to destroy basic workers’ rights. It’s not about jobs or rights, and it’s the wrong priority for Indiana.”

Last week, union members and other activists marched through the Super Bowl Village with signs that said, “Fight the Lie” and “Workers United Will Prevail.”

Local activists have vowed to continue the fight through Game Day, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens in and around Lucas Oil Stadium this Sunday. It’s hard to imagine network TV covering a protest, but it may be more eventful that Madonna’s half-time show.

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