On April 17, Illinois unions went to considerable expense to rally 2,000 union workers outside the Abraham Lincoln Hotel in Springfield, Illinois, where inside Gov. Scott Walker delivered a thirty minute speech at the invitation of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce. Symbolism is everything at events like this, so laborers were treated to no less than three giant, inflatable rats of the kind used in front of financial institutions to convey union displeasure with corporate greed.
The irony was that the overwhelming majority of the unions represented at the rally were private sector unions raucously voicing support for their public sector “brothers and sisters” in Wisconsin that have been sucking the capital from the very sector of the economy that would fuel the projects that would keep private sector laborers working. But symbolism is more important than substance and participants at the rally amused each other (Caution: tacky signage ahead) with what they perceived to be their cleverness (obviously a common theme), artistic skill, and wordsmithing. Appreciation for the Koch brothers was in evidence as well.
One rally-er did allude to the fact that Illinois’ own Democrat Gov. Pat Quinn (caustically critical of Walker’s visit to his state) reneged on a contractual agreement to raise the salaries of his own AFSCME workers and has proposed some budget cuts. And there was at least one American flag on “display” at the event. Otherwise the crowd was well-mannered (union volunteers made sure the crowd did not block fire lanes) and speakers limited themselves to the usual distortions of Walker’s achievements while avoiding the kind of extreme invective that subverts their intended media messaging.
The rally organizers failed to perceive yet one final irony they unintentionally supplied: in the end it was Gov. Scott Walker that towered over his critics.