Media Center

Do protests matter?

A recent article in Governing magazine posed the question: “Do Protests Impact Whether and How People Vote?” Recent pages of the In Transit and ATU Dispatch are filled with stories about our activism all over the U.S. and Canada, complete with T-shirts, signs, and blow up camels.

But, have our efforts affected whether and how people vote on the things that really matter to us, to our riders and our communities?

Governing notes that, in Wisconsin, demonstrations against Governor Scott Walker’s anti-union bills failed
to stop the legislation, and that he won re-elction amidst the highest turnout Wisconsin had seen since the 1950s…”

Activism creates awareness

However, the demonstrations focused attention on Walker’s war on unions which, now that he seeks the presidency, have come under increased scrutiny as promised improvements in the state’s economic condition have failed to materialize. And in April, Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, who consistently votes to protect worker rights, was re-elected with a 10-point margin.

Voter registration efforts following the shooting death of Michael Brown last year put no more voters on the rolls in Ferguson, MO, than in the rest of St. Louis County. But, voter turnout for the following election was 30% higher than usual, putting African-Americans on the Ferguson Council.

Our coalition campaign failed to oust Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, but by forcing the city’s first mayoral runoff, the coalition communicated their dissatisfaction with his administration more powerfully than anything else they could have done. In Saskatoon, SK, riders joined our members in protesting the lockout of transit workers there, which eventually led to the City bringing their employees back to work.

Lasting change takes time, courage, commitment

Political action taken against entrenched economic interests rarely produces quick results.  And if it does, those results are usually short-lived. Lasting change usually requires persistence over time, courage, and commitment.

And that’s where your union comes in. Individually, few of us can afford to be full-time activists, but collectively, we accomplish a lot.

It takes time to convince voters of the righteousness of a cause. Nevertheless, we must act, now, if we want to retain and win back all that we have fought for.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., challenged our moral compass to do what we knew was right.  Cesar Chavez challenged us to engage in a boycott of conscience on farmworker-harvested grapes. We need to do that too.

President Barack Obama says, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” Nothing can stop us when people recognize that we are standing up for what is right.

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