Swarmed by around 10,000 protesters today, Lansing is silent once again this evening. All that’s left is the litter.
Protestors discarded pro-union signs across the sidewalks surrounding the capitol, and many more posters are propped up against local businesses.
I spoke to several local business owners who said that, despite their voiced intention to stay neutral, union members had left anti-right-to-work posters in their windows or outside their premises in a contrived show of support for Big Labor.
“They put it on the side of the window, so no one [in here] actually saw it,” said Boris Hsieh of Anqi Sushi Express. He added that the restaurant had tried to keep out of the debate.
Likewise, Ted Robison, the owner of Ted-Dees Sandwich, told me he’d been approached by union members yesterday who wanted to display a political sign in his window. He’d said no, telling them neutrality was important for his business. But when I visited the restaurant today, a sign was in his window. He said someone else had put it there without asking him, and that he intended to take it down.
Union protesters have undoubtedly trashed the town. Several bars and restaurants told me they’d been cleaning up picket signs all day. But other poster placements were also clearly misleading, suggesting the unions had businesses’ support, even if they didn’t.
For some proprietors, though, displaying support for the unions was a business decision. Although the unions didn’t threaten damage to the premises, “they gave people these signs and [said], ‘If you put it up in your window, that was where the protesters [are] supposed to go,’” said Caitlin Sailor, a barista at Decker’s, a coffee shop near the capitol building.
Sailor said her boss initially wanted to be neutral but decided in the end to display the sign. It worked: “We were slammed for hours, couldn’t brew coffee fast enough,” Sailor said.