Monday, September 16, 2013
Private surveillance against Labor Solidarity in Clear Lake, CA
“Randy I-Don’t-Have-A-Last Name”
2013-08-12 report from the "Latina version of Erin Brokovich" Dr. G. (name kept anonymous):
On Thursday, August 8, 2013, I happened to be driving down to Clear Lake, California when I saw some people on strike. Me, being me, curious as always, interested in Social Justice for at least three generations, I stopped to find out what was going on. Since I am also starting to write about people who are Making A Difference in our world, or the “act of being M.A.D.” as I whimsically like to call it, I also decide to bring my notepad and my smart phone with which I document my stories.
I met more than 20 teamsters who are striking on the Lake Transit Authority (LTA). They had signs and buttons, and were encouraging the cars driving by to honk their horns to demonstrate support. They were very successful! Yes, even by-passers are saying “enough is enough!”, or “¡basta!”, as we say in Spanish.
¡Basta! for what? I interviewed them, Don Joachimstaler at the fore front, who is their Union Negotiator. In short, three years ago, when this transportation company was struggling due to the deep recession our economy was going through, the unions showed leadership and negotiated the reduction of income and benefits of all workers, so that the company could stay in business. The three-year contract that was negotiated in July of 2010 expired on July of 2013. A new one was due. Since our economy is gradually improving, the unions are demanding that the conditions of employment also improve. The management disagreed and even had the audacity to say “we won’t answer your [very valid’ request of rationales”. Thus, the union showed leadership, once again—now, by calling for a strike.
I told them a little bit about who this blonde, blue-eyed spicy woman is, starting with the fact that I have am being referred to as the Latina version of Erin Brockovich. They new of Erin, and the reference made them giggled and ignited their curiosity. We all became curious about each other, and started relating. Some of them took their smart phones and started taking pictures of me. In the process, someone from the LTA management took a picture of the license plate of my car. One of the union members informs me of that. I decide to go and have a conversation with the management.
I now walk and code-switch into my “Dr. G.” character, which I intentionally use only when needed. The person who took a picture of my car walks out into the lobby even while I am trying to explain to the courteous receptionist why I was there. “Hi, Sir, my name is Dr. G., what is yours?” This white man, in his late fifties, replies: “I am Randy”. “And your last name, Sir?”, I request. “Let’s just leave it at that”. I now move more into my Professional Social Activist tone of voice, “fascinating piece of information, Randy, you somehow managed not to have a last name!”, I reply with an assertive smile. “I wanted to find out why where you taking a picture of my car.” “We were about to toe it away as it is parked on private property”, he replies. Now, I quite understandably get a wee facetious and state: “Then, I am so glad I came to talk to you because I can fix that in a much more efficient and cost-effective fashion, I’ll just move my car. And, Sir, since you don’t have a last name, you may also want to know that you just met the Latina version of Erin Brockovich. Something tells me that you will see more of me in a near future… just a different venue! May you both (now, assertively smiling at both of them), have a good day.”
I went back to the group of teamsters and re-enacted the very short scene. We all got a great LAUGH. I told them about the book and DVD I am currently writing, and about how I am creating a model that will inspire those who want to make a difference (and there are many, and the numbers are growing!)… how to make injustice visible, as Gandhi would say… and to LAUGH, yes, LAUGH, as opposed to get bitter and depressed. They loved it. We began our collaboration. Stay tuned.
In memorial to Dr. G., who died December, 2013, under very mysterious circumstances, in Vallejo.