Peach of a Win
Teamsters Mobilize Atlanta to Beat Back Political Attack
Extremist lawmakers in Georgia thought they could quickly and quietly take away citizens’ rights to free speech and workers’ rights to form a union.
They forgot to take the Teamsters into account when they filed SB 469, a bill that would make it a felony to picket. The bill would also have let the government interfere with a worker’s decision to join a union.
Georgia Teamsters were floored and furious when they learned of the political attack on working families. Local 728 President Randy Brown immediately launched a fierce five-week campaign to kill the bill. The fight inspired the largest mobilization of workers and community activists in Atlanta in years. It included veterans of the civil rights movement, Tea Party activists, Occupy Atlanta, Jobs With Justice, the Sierra Club, the ACLU, clergy and community groups.
“Very few people thought we could kill this bill, but we were determined to stand up for our rights,” Brown said. “These corporate-backed politicians learned that they can’t intimidate working people when we stick together, get active and organize.”
Atlanta Teamsters used new media to alert the public to SB 469 from the beginning, when political director Eric Robertson tweeted the bill’s text. They created Facebook event pages to enlist support and interest in lobby days, press conferences and rallies. They used patch-through calls for members to tell their representatives to vote against the bill. They sent out email alerts and robocalls.
SB 469 still moved through the Georgia Legislature, though working people packed committee hearings and staged a massive rally of more than 2,000 people.
A week before the session ended, the Atlanta Tea Party announced it opposed the bill as an assault on free speech. A news conference on the last day of the session featured a Tea Party leader, labor leaders and civil rights leaders speaking out against the bill. SB 469 was never brought to the House floor by the time the clock struck midnight, the official end of the session. Teamster power had defeated some of the most powerful politicians in Georgia.