Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Detroiter in Wisconsin: 'Every Worker Has Sacrificed More Than Enough'

A Detroiter in Wisconsin: 'Every worker has sacrificed more than enough'

12:18 AM, Feb. 27, 2011

Cheryl LaBash, a 62-year-old retired construction inspector for the City of Detroit, can't imagine being anywhere but the state Capitol in Madison, Wis.


A show of solidarity: Unions rally for workers across U.S.

MADISON, Wis. -- Cheryl LaBash traded the comforts of her two-bedroom bungalow in northwest Detroit last week for a cubby along the wooden stair railing on the second floor of the Wisconsin state Capitol.

She sleeps on a marble floor surrounded by hundreds of other protesters, most of them decades younger. LaBash brushes her teeth and washes her face in a public restroom and grabs the occasional shower when she runs into a friend who has rented a hotel room during the protests.

She's been living on bratwursts, pizza and pastries donated by union sympathizers and longs for cups of coffee that she took for granted until her adventure began last week.

The lights never dim, and the beating of protesters' drums begins at 8 a.m. every morning and stops at 11 each night.

But LaBash, a 62-year-old retired construction inspector for the City of Detroit, can't imagine being anywhere else.

"I'm a retired public employee, and if there is an attack on a public employee, I'm going there," she said after a long day of rallies and marches. "It's important to let these people here know that someone from Detroit cared enough to get in their car, drive here and sleep on the floor with them every night."

She says she doesn't believe the employees in Wisconsin or anywhere should make financial or bargaining concessions during these tough economic times.

"Every worker has sacrificed more than enough," she said. "There are tax breaks extended for people, corporations and banks who make an enormous amount of money, so if we're in such a desperate state, then the people who have the most should pay the most."

She brought along a comforter and pillow from home, so the marble floor doesn't seem quite so hard, and the earplugs protest organizers handed out Feb. 19, her first night staying in the Capitol, have helped. But last week she was desperate to do a load of laundry.

LaBash has history with union activism. She was arrested in 1980 during a protest at a Detroit City Council meeting over the sale of Detroit General Hospital and again in 1990 during the Greyhound Bus strike.

"There's a long tradition of people going to jail for their convictions," LaBash said.

She's ready to be jailed again, when police try to remove protesters from the Capitol at 4 p.m. today. If she's evicted, she brought along a tent just in case.

"Who knows, maybe it will be Madison this spring and summer."

Contact Kathleen Gray: 313-223-4407 or

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