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Bridgette Williams, president of the local AFL-CIO, gave a nod to the minority workers who'd been protesting the rally. "They're not against us, and we're not against them," she said. "Think of them as new members who deserve the opportunity to have a good union job!"
Obviously, however, all was not well. Master of ceremonies Garry Kemp, head of the Greater Kansas City Building and Construction Trades Council, told the crowd, "We're just now starting to come out of the depression from last November." If that's the case, these folks are way, way, way late in filling their Wellbutrin prescriptions so late, in fact, that they'll probably need a double dose next November, when Claire McCaskill loses her senate race to Jim Talent because nobody on the left has figured out what to do about abortion.
Herb Johnson of the Missouri AFL-CIO acknowledged the trouble ahead. "Some say we aren't in condition to fight, but the misery index is rising, and they're playing right into our hands!" he yelled. "Solidarity will rise again!" The rhetoric rivaled Cleaver's, but you can't just rely on people's misery.
You have to give them hope, too.
And listening to the politicians, it was obvious that none of them really knew what to do. Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon, clearly campaigning as the Democratic challenger to Gov. Matt Blunt in 2008, offered a generic "I look forward to working with each and every one of you to make sure that we can make changes happen!"
Fat chance. The obvious lesson from last November is that working people can't put all of their hope in politicians. None of us can expect our sold-out government to do the right thing anymore. Desperate times call for desperate measures maybe a little good old-fashioned head-bustin', anyone? After all, the thing that made unions strong in the first place was that they weren't afraid to throw around their muscle.
But as a little folk ensemble took the microphone for a closing version of "Solidarity Forever," there wasn't much solidarity anymore. Only 30 or so people remained to sing along, scattered out in the sun and under Berkley Park's spindly trees.
The rest had drifted away, hot and tired after the effort of showing themselves, at least, that the workers of Kansas City could unite for a day. After this summer, that, in and of itself, was worth celebrating.