"Occupy Wall Street" is heading to the Super Bowl.
Labor groups are teaming up with the Occupy movement for a series of high-profile protests in Indianapolis, where Super Bowl XLVI will take place this Sunday. The demonstrations are centered on Indiana's new right-to-work law, which critics say will hamstring unions and leave the state's workers in a vulnerable position.
The Indiana chapter of the AFL-CIO, one of the largest union federations in the country, will be passing out literature at and around Lucas Oil Stadium, the site of Sunday's game, according to ThinkProgress. The hotel workers' union UNITE HERE will stage a demonstration on Friday, and local Occupy activists are said to be planning a protest of their own -- an extension of the rabble-rousing that took place this past weekend, when union members and Occupy demonstrators joined forces for several marches and rallies around Indianapolis.
Indiana's new law, which makes it impossible for employers to require their workers to join a union or pay membership dues, is only the latest in a string of recent setbacks for American labor. Union membership has fallen off dramatically since the 1980s, and 2009 and 2010 saw especially steep declines in participation. (In what some analysts say is likely not a coincidence, paychecks for most Americans have barely grown since the 1980s.)
Over the past year, conservative politicians from Wisconsin to Arizona have proposed or passed laws that aim to reduce the power of organized labor, and Republicans at the federal level have been voicing steadily louder opposition to the National Labor Relations Board, claiming that the agency advocates for union members in a way that harms the interests of the business community.
Labor advocates say that Indiana's right-to-work law, which Governor Mitch Daniels signed on Wednesday, will erode the political and financial strength of unions in that state. Supporters of the law say it will attract more companies to Indiana and kick-start job growth. Indiana is the 23rd state with a right-to-work law on the books, and the first in the Rust Belt, the central-northeastern part of the country historically associated with heavy industry.
This weekend's protests are part of what right-to-work opponents call an ongoing campaign to get the law repealed. They also represent a continuation of the alliance between organized labor and the Occupy movement, groups that share an interest in preserving working- and middle-class power. The visibility of Occupy protesters has dropped somewhat in recent months, with more and more cities taking measures to dispel long-term encampments, though the movement is still conspicuously active in New York, D.C., Miami, Oakland and other places.