By Rita Weisshaar
When we arrived at the gathering site for the picket, I was apprehensive about how many people were going to be there with us. Then we saw a small group arrive and more and more people came to join them—the electricians from IBEW Local 3, the culinary and hotel workers from UniteHere! Local 100 and UniteHere! Local 6, and the Catholic Scholars for Worker Justice. In all, probably close to 200 union members and others turned out to join us. I started introducing myself to them, passed out IBEW Local 1245 pins and stickers and thanked them for coming. As I talked with them I explained more about why we were there; their concern and support was overwhelming. I really enjoyed talking and visiting with them until it was time to cross the street and go over to the site of the awards dinner.
There was a one-way street that was in front of the building where the dinner was held and a bike path between it and a larger four lane street. We walked down the bike path and lined the rail that separated it from the one-way street so the cars and taxis coming up to the entrance could not miss us. Bill Granfield, President of UniteHere! Local 100, kicked off the picket with a short rally explaining why we were there and the importance of it. Chris Erikson, the business manager of IBEW Local 3, welcomed us to NYC. The words of support and the hospitality we were shown made me feel like one of their own.
At the rally Father Brian Jordan compared NV Energy to Judas Iscariot, as someone betraying our trust. That really hit a chord with me. We based our future retirement plans on what Sierra Pacific Power promised us and we trusted they would provide for us. Now NV Energy has broken that promise and betrayed our trust.
After the rally we started chanting, “NV Energy, shame on you! “ The union members in New York really know how to keep the momentum going. As the cars and taxis started arriving with people, everyone waved their signs, upped the volume, yelling “NV Energy, shame on you” and other spontaneous chants that came out from the crowd. The people going into the dinner watched from their cars as they were driving in. We couldn’t be ignored. Some of the people going to the dinner put down their windows to read our signs and hear what we were saying. Some of the cars speeding by on the main road behind us honked their support. The bull horn was passed from person to person so the chants were continuous and kept everyone going.
The energy we generated at this picket was truly amazing. The atmosphere was charged with it. The feeling was uplifting and pushed you to keep going, keep chanting, keep waving signs. We were there for over an hour but it seemed much shorter. I left feeling a real bond with those that had come to support us in our cause. As one Local 3 member told me, “If they do it to you, they’ll do it to all of us. We have to stay united and let them know what we think about this.”
I can’t find the words to express how this made me feel. These union members took up our cause to help us without flinching. In a great city we found there are equally great union members who will help their union brothers and sisters even with a cause that is not their own. I am humbled and deeply grateful for their support.