Dems Manhandle ABC News Crew, AFSCME Chief Beats Up Chair as Laborgeddon Begins

ABC News correspondent Brian Ross got threatened with arrest in Charlotte yesterday, and an ABC camera crew got slapped down by an important Obama fundraiser. Meanwhile, a government employee union president lost his marbles and assaulted an empty chair.

And despite costly efforts to bus in activists, labor rallies have been notably small around the Democratic National Convention.

Andy Kroll of Mother Jones says labor has been shafted by the DNC's organizers, while the Los Angeles Times' Alana Semuels says unions have been reduced to trying to make nice with their Democratic patrons in the right-to-work state of North Carolina. 

This year's DNC is as clear a picture as we're likely to get of the death throes of organized labor in the United States. Last year's rumble in Wisconsin ended in a complete route for government employee unions. Small but telling votes in California's off-season elections also demonstrated the public's desire to roll back union power in the only sector of the economy where it's still growing: government employment.

Here's the video of Ross and his crew getting the kibosh from Rajiv Fernando, an Obama bundler whose lack of credentials Ross highlighted a while back when Fernando was serving on something called the International Security Advisory Board. Fernando is not a labor figure, but he's an old Chicago hand comfortable with union-style use of force in exchanging ideas. To get a sense of the contrast, stick around after the DNC video ends to see Ross doing the same thing with big Romney donors last week. They're no more cooperative but a damn sight more peaceful. Ross has been chasing around plenty of labor figures at the DNC as well. 

Meanwhile, Lee Saunders, who was recently elected president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), did what any good speaker does when the audience starts to tune out: He got violent.

Descriptions of Saunders' antics differ, but all sources seem to agree he went ape on an empty chair. From JD Journal

The public worker’s union AFSCME’s newly elected president, Lee Saunders, led the event with some risqué humor, addressing an empty chair as if it were Clint Eastwood — an allusion to Eastwood addressing an empty chair as if it were Obama — and then grew irate and violent with the chair.

“He’s been sitting here listening to all the speaker before me, he’s been listening to me, I want you to give Clint Eastwood a round of applause,” said Saunders. “I brought him with me to learn some things, OK? To teach him, to educate him.”

After interrogating the chair, he said, “He doesn’t have anything to say.”

“Mitt Romney doesn’t have anything to say, Paul Ryan doesn’t have anything to say.”

Things took a dark turn when he then kicked and threw the chair, yelling “Dirty Harry, make my day! We’re gonna kick ass in November!” The crowd nevertheless, cheered him on.

The Washington Post's Kathleen Parker says it was meant to be a joke

“I’ve got a couple of questions . . . I want to ask Clint Eastwood. But first, buddy, what do you have to say for yourself? I didn’t hear you. . . . Clint’s been sitting here for the past hour. He doesn’t have anything to say for himself. Mitt Romney has nothing to say for himself. Paul Ryan has nothing to say for himself. We’ve got to make our voices heard. . . . If we do that, we will win in November. So I say to you, Dirty Harry: ‘Dirty Harry, make my day!’ ”

Whereupon Saunders knocked the empty chair off the stage. The ensuing thud was commentary. As they say, it isn’t so much the joke; it’s how you tell it.

And BuzzFeed's Rosie Gray conveys even more menace

Suddenly, the tone changed: Saunders, finishing his speech, began to kick the chair, threw it, and yelled "Dirty Harry, make my day! We're gonna kick ass in November!"

The crowd was cheering, and the humor had gained a palpable edge.

I can't find a video of Saunders' performance, but this sounds like the frustration of a man rendered impotent by events: 

 

JD Journal sheds more light on the particulars of union leaders' frustration: 

Perhaps not all the aggression was inspired by Eastwood, however. After all, Democrats stuck them out in the middle of North Carolina, a state that has right-to-work laws and therefore a weak union presence

“Charlotte wouldn’t have been our choice as a city,” Saunders said. “It’s in the right to work state, it’s tough to organize down here for private and public sector unions.

I lived in California too long to believe the Great Divorce between unions and their Democratic patrons is imminent, but clearly something has shifted. Even the selection of L.A.'s unimpressive Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa as the convention's chairman is not a straightforward win for government employees. (Except in the sense that Antonio Ramón Villar, Jr. is of course a government employee.) Although he organized mobs for United Teachers Los Angeles way back when, Villaraigosa has steered a course away from his old comrades while serving as mayor, at one point trying to manage a tranche of schools directly without union work rules, at other times encouraging charter schools, and finally denouncing the teachers union during one of his failed effort to become a statewide power. 

We're in the twelfth year of the 21st century, and this union shrinkage is long overdue. But don't expect labor honchos to go gently. They never have before. Also public safety unions are in most states the most powerful labor organizations. (Even in Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker let discretion have the better part of valor when it was time to confront cops and firefighters.) So it's only a slight exaggeration to say they have all the guns. 

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  • Mo||

    Meanwhile, a government employee union president lost his marbles and assaulted an empty chair.

    In his defense, he thought it was an invisible Obama.

  • Paul.||

    Obama is everywhere... Obama is nowhere.

  • ||

    "union shrinkage"

    Great band name.

  • Brandybuck||

    It was the cold water in the pool

  • Brett L||

    With this to pick from you put up Snake Plisken?

  • SugarFree||

    Things took a dark turn when he then kicked and threw the chair, yelling “Dirty Harry, make my day! We’re gonna kick ass in November!” The crowd nevertheless, cheered him on.

    This is why I don't write much anymore. How can I hope to out-crazy reality?

  • Brett L||

    I really think the defining theme of the 2000s (and 2010s) when history is written is the sudden dropoff of parody as an art form because you can't hyperbolize these people.

  • ||

    Here's my question: why is it that these people think doing this won't be considered nuts?

  • SugarFree||

    Because they live in a bubble where they think they are being "tough" or "funny".

    It think the whole "know your audience" idea is breaking down. The "You didn't build that" and "You belong to the government" and "legitimate rape" gaffes are all based on it.

  • ||

    Sure, but this is extra crispy fried stupid. Bubbles explain a lot but then there's a certain level that even retards in a bubble should know they shouldn't go beyond, yet they routinely do.

    I'm going to chalk it up to my theory that partisanship is a form of mental retardation.

  • Brett L||

    I think political types sometimes forget that their actual audience is highly dependent on whether they are saying something boring or whether they are saying something that will sell page views and airtime. 95% of the time, their audience is the echo chamber, but go anywhere outside of boring platitudes and you risk becoming a Drudge or HuffPo headline and making hay for the other team.

    Still, you'd think professionals would be able to figure that out.

  • NoVAHockey||

    They think their shit doesn't stink. Because they're surrounded by people who tell them this repeatedly.

  • Randian||

    Where's Richard Trumka to kill an actual person when you need him to?

  • $park¥||

    This is seriously disgusting. I wouldn't be surprised to hear they started breaking out into chants of "Orgy Porgy!" and then shredded their clothes and had a massive orgy right there.

  • Brutus||

    Union legs good, scab legs bad!!

  • SIV||

    Just like John L Lewis punching Bill Hutcheson at the AFL convention during the last Depression

  • Ryan60657||

    I have no problems with private-sector unions or collective bargaining. An employer can always pack up and move to a different city, state or country. There are always checks and balances.

    Public sector unions are already the downfall of all state and municipal governments, and the problem is only going to get worse. ZERO checks or balances exist to offset public sector union powers.

    The most effective strategy (like what has been happening in NJ) is to employ private sector unions in the fight against their public sector brethren.

  • sarcasmic||

    An employer can always pack up and move to a different city, state or country.

    Boeing may beg to disagree.

  • Drake||

    Rajiv Fernando video no longer available.

  • Hyperion||

    Yep, just noticed that. I guess ABC got a 'phone call' to remind them of what team they are owned by.

    It would be really funny if the dems just openly sent goon squads over to ABC headquarters and they beat up everyone there and smashed up the place. I can just see ABC news the next morning with a bandaged up anchor with broken stuff in the background of the set acting like nothing happened. That is what eventually happens when you sell out and align yourself with evil.

  • johnl||

  • Loki||

    Suddenly, the tone changed: Saunders, finishing his speech, began to kick the chair, threw it, and yelled "Dirty Harry, make my day! We're gonna kick ass in November!"

    Hmmm, sounds as if he was insinuating that he would beat an 82 year old man. Stay classy there, you big "tuff gai". What a shithead.

  • aelhues||

    He likes to think he would, but one cross look, and he'd devolve into a quivering pile of pink jello. That's generally the way with liberals.

  • Loki||

    ^This^ Most "labor leaders" are just glorified bullies/ thugs. The minute someone stands up to them, they suddenly aren't so tough.

  • Randian||

    I don't want a large Farva. I want a goddamn litre o' cola!
  • Fist of Etiquette||

    To get a sense of the contrast, stick around after the DNC video ends to see Ross doing the same thing with big Romney donors last week. They're no more cooperative but a damn sight more peaceful. Ross has been chasing around plenty of labor figures at the DNC as well.

    That's not what Diane Sawyer said that the end of the Ross report. She pointed out that he was kicked out of plenty of hotels in Tampa, too.

  • ||

    The whole chair fight was done much better in Gummo:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tSggEhvfi9U

    I'm not sure if the little black dude is supposed to be Obama.

  • Paul.||

    I lived in California too long to believe the Great Divorce between unions and their Democratic patrons is imminent, but clearly something has shifted.

    It can't shift because they have nowhere else to go.

    You have to join one of two (3 if you count the 22 libertarians in the country) parties to join.

    One ignores you, (another other hates you) but one says they're your friend and if you give them money, they'll help you out.

    The result is the same, you end up with bupkiss.

  • loving||

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