Holding a pro-union demonstration near Voss and San Felipe, a short distance from the epicenter of frou-frou that is the Galleria, seems likely to elicit a less-than-enthusiastic response from passersby. But economic trouble has turned things around a bit, and local activists - most of them SEIU members or employees - managed to throw such an event and get a halfway-decent reaction, by which we mean they weren't run down by German-made SUVs.
About 15 people gathered with signs and flyers at 11:30 a.m. on the sidewalk of the 6400 block of San Felipe, which features Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Comerica Bank branches - all in a row!! (We're certain all those fat-cat tellers were shaken by the voice of the proletariat.)
Tiffany Hogue, a researcher with the Service Employees International Union, tells us the Houston event - part of today's national campaign that the union says includes more than 100 cities - is an effort to inform people about key workers' rights issues, including the Employee Free Choice Act and health care reform.
"Even if it is just leafletting, we want people to know [about the issues]," she says. "We need to put bailout money where it's going to matter - in the working class, not bank coffers."
Whether or not they agree with the union on specific labor issues, a number of people expressed their general frustration with corporate America through sympathetic honks. We think.
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"I don't know if we're hearing honks because they want us to get out of the way or if they agree," Hogue says.
Either way, a couple of media outlets - including Reuters and Fox 26 - were on hand to report on the event, which pretty much makes it a success as far as these things go. The demonstrators took a break from passing out flyers and talking with motorists to provide the media with some obligatory chants, including "Shine a light on corporate greed, we have hungry mouths to feed" and "Bank of America you can't hide, we can see your greedy side" (or greed inside, your choice).
We'll give them an A for sincerity and a C- for creativity. (If we may offer a suggestion for future events: "Corporate bailouts sure must suck, if we can make Houstonians give a fuck.")
Maybe they should have picked the brain of SEIU member Will Cox, who, as far as we're concerned, had the quip of the day. In response to a motorist who slowed down to boo the protestors: "Booin' us? Boy, you drivin' a [Mitsubishi] Mirage - the recession already hit you."