Nelson Mandela: A life in pictures
Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie in this undated file picture.
When Republicans rode Tea Party anger to large majorities in Georgia’s state Legislature in 2010, it seemed inevitable that sooner or later some of these restive constituents would turn against them. Few, though, would have predicted the cause of an uprising that went down this week: an anti-picketing bill aimed at silencing union members.
On March 7, the Georgia Senate passed SB 469, a bill backed by the state’s Chamber of Commerce and introduced by state senators including Waffle House executive Don Balfour. Along with a battery of other anti-union measures, the bill bans picketing that targets private residences and causes “intimidation” or disturbs the “quiet enjoyment” of local residents. (“Quiet enjoyment” apparently being a more fundamental right than freedom of speech.) SB 469 would increase potential punishments for picketing or “conspiracy,” and it would make it easier for companies to request and receive injunctions from judges halting demonstrations. In a letter to Balfour, Ted Jackson, the sheriff of Georgia’s largest county, wrote that “The role of law enforcement shouldn’t be to police free speech but the intent of this bill seems to be just that.” (Balfour did not respond to Salon’s request for comment.)
Unions began rallying in opposition to the bill shortly after it was introduced last month and have been active ever since. They’ve been joined by several non-labor groups that also see the bill as a threat to their right to demonstrations. Occupy, environmentalist and civil rights activists have warned for weeks that the broadly written bill put their protest rights at risk as well. On Monday, so did the Atlanta Tea Party.
“We were extremely excited when they showed up,” says Georgia AFL-CIO president Charlie Flemming. “We [had] reached out to them, not knowing that they would.”
As Dave Jamieson reported for the Huffington Post, the Atlanta Tea Party sent a message Monday to its 50,000-person email list calling SB 469 “a gross violation of the First Amendment.” That day, Tea Partyers joined union members and others in packing a House Industrial Relations Committee hearing on the bill. Debbie Dooley, whom Teamsters Local 728 political director Eric Robertson calls “the most well-known Tea Party activist in Georgia,” was among those testifying against the bill.
“Labor unions have First Amendment rights just like Tea Parties,” Dooley says. “I don’t see how you can say it’s OK for one group to go and protest in front of CNN but a labor union can’t.”
Her testimony, along with the Tea Party revolt, may have made a difference. The next day, the 35th day of Georgia’s 40-day legislative session, the Industrial Relations Committee canceled a planned vote on SB 469. There’s not much time left for the House to pass the measure. Dooley thinks, based on conversations with Republican legislators, SB 469 is already dead.
“They’re traditionally the Republicans’ allies,” says Flemming, and so if SB 469 is defeated, Tea Party opposition “might be the reason, and then again, it might just be the final straw.”
But labor is still aggressively lobbying to stop it. ”This is a test case,” says Robertson. If SB 469 passes, “they’re going to roll it out everywhere else.” He and Flemming say labor and the Tea Party have discussed working together to target Balfour and other SB 469 supporters in Republican primaries, though Dooley says “469 would not be one of our criteria” in determining which incumbents to oppose. And while Dooley notes that SB 469 is not the first time the Atlanta Tea Party has clashed with Republicans, the cooperation with labor does not signal the start of a long and happy friendship.
For starters, labor and the Tea Party opposed the bill for different reasons. Robertson sees a bill from “the corporate far right” that’s “designed to crush dissent and to mortally cripple the labor movement.” Certainly, labor is far more constrained in its right to picket than Occupy or Tea Party groups. Union members are bound by the 1947 Taft-Hartley Amendments to the National Labor Relations Act, which restrict what legal scholars call “secondary boycotts” pulling suppliers or customers into disputes. And when the Supreme Court affirmed that anti-gay activists are free to picket military funerals with signs that say “God Hates Fags,” it left untouched an earlier precedent excluding union picketing from the same protections. So union activists in Georgia see SB 469 as yet another attempt to tie their hands behind their backs.
Tea Party opposition does not run nearly as deep. Dooley says she wouldn’t object to banning protests in “strictly residential” neighborhoods, but the bill as written “would have affected a lot of our protests, because the language was so broad.” Another Tea Party leader, Virginia Galloway, the Georgia state director for Americans for Prosperity, says of the House, “If they would fix some of the details, we would have a good deal.”
Dooley also says she supports other recent union-busting actions like those against public workers’ collective-bargaining rights by Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin. “Any time taxpayer dollars are involved, I think there should be tighter restrictions.” But SB 469 is a reminder that labor rights are a First Amendment issue, not just the fiscal one that many conservatives have painted it to be. “This was within our core values,” Dooley says, “because it would limit our right to protest.”
Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie in this undated file picture.
Mandela is accompanied by his former wife Winnie, moments after his release from prison February 11, 1990 after serving 27 years in jail. (Reuters)
In this February, 1990 photo, shortly after his release from 27 years in prison, Nelson Mandela, gives the black power salute to the 120,000 supporters packing Soccer City stadium in Soweto, near Johannesburg. (AP Photo)
Nelson Mandela showed his passport in February 19, 1990, shortly after his release from prison. The South African government authorized an application for himself and his wife Winnie - (Juda Ngwenya / Reuters)
In this July 27, 1991 photo, Cuban President Fidel Castro, and Nelson Mandela gesture during the celebration of the "Day of the Revolution" in Matanzas, Cuba. (AP Photo)
In this July 4, 1993 photo, President Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela listen during Fourth of July ceremonies in Philadelphia during which Clinton presented the Philadelphia Liberty Medal to the African National Congress president and South African President F.W. de Klerk. (AP Photo/Greg Gibson)
President of the African National Congress Nelson Mandela acknowledges cheers from the crowd as he prepares to unveil the ANC's official election platform in 1994. (AP Photo/David Brauchli)
African National Congress (ANC) leader Nelson Mandela greeted residents of Mmabatho in March 1994, during a visit after the nominal homeland came under South African control following the ousting of the former President Lucas Mangope. (Reuters/Howard Burditt)
South African President Nelson Mandela smiles with actor Sidney Poitier at a press conference in Cape Town in 1996. Poitier played Mandela in the film "One Man, One Vote" (AP Photo / Sasa Kralj)
South African President Nelson Mandela waves to crowds as he sits next to Queen Elizabeth II in a an open carriage on the way to Buckingham Palace.(AP/Louisa Buller)
Chairman of the Constitutional Assembly Cyril Ramaphosa, left, holds up a copy of the country's constitution which was signed by President Nelson Mandela, in December 1996. (AP Photo / Adil Bradlow / POOL)
Nelson Mandela at a news conference in Johannesburg in February 2000. (AP Photo / Denis Farrell)
South African rugby captain Francois Pienaar, right, received the Rugby World Cup trophy from President Nelson Mandela also wearing a South African rugby shirt, after South Africa defeated New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup , in 1995. (AP Photo / Ross Setford)