Sheila Payne Interview Transcript

SHEILA PAYNE: Sheila Payne. S-H-E-I-L-A P-A-Y-N-E. MATT JACOBSON: OK. And just briefly before we get to talking about the campaign, if you could just give me kind of thumbnail sketch of where you're from, where you grew up, how you ended up here in Gainesville, how long you've been here? SP: Let's see. I was born in Homestead, Florida. I went to Evergreen State College in Washington state after deciding UF was too big for me. My favorite state is North Carolina, where Paul [Sheila’s husband] was at Duke. And then we were at UCSC. Paul was at UCSC, Santa Cruz, California, and we came back to Gainesville because he was kind enough to find a job in the South so I could take care of my mom, who had Parkinson's. So we have lived here for a year and two months. MJ: OK. So you had really just arrived back here in Florida around the time that the campaign was starting? SP: Yeah, I started actually the first week. It was a blessing because I wanted to get-- the Post Office, I had to take early retirement. There's a permanent a hiring freeze for now, permanent for now. So while I was looking for work, I started volunteering four days a week walking-- MJ: So you were a postal worker here? SP: For 24 years. No, before we got here. MJ: OK. SP: I had tried for a year. Now you have to apply online. I applied to like 80 post offices within a year, in an hour's travel time, and it's the first time I've been able to make two other moves. With my record, I was able to transfer, but even though they begged D.C. to let me work for them here, there was a hiring freeze. MJ: When did that go into effect? SP: That was actually in Florida, it was two years ago. Paul had already taken the job here. He stayed in Santa Cruz for a year after he accepted the job here, so it was too late at that point for me to-- and it never occurred to me that I actually would not be able to get a job. I was offered a job, but I'd already accepted the early retirement. The first time in the 25 years I was with the Post Office that they had offered it. So I feel fortunate. I have a small pension. MJ: So the hiring freeze there, that's a nationwide thing, but it's administered state by state? How does that work? SP: No. It's nationwide, but here it had already been in effect for a year within a 500 mile radius because they had implemented a flat sorting machine in Tennessee. And so they already were stopping. And actually I was offered a job a few months after I got here, well no, about six months. My old postmaster kept me on unpaid leave after I ran out of annual leave, so that I could stay on the rolls and either get a job or be eligible for the early retirement. So that was lucky, because it kept him from being able to do anything. It made his rolls look bigger than they were. But yeah, it's been a shock. MJ: Yeah. SP: Because I was the best [SP laughs]. So now, from making $24 an hour-- I've actually always made more than Paul. Because the year after I had brain surgery, I actually worked 70 hour weeks, and I always have worked at least 60. So I like that. And I like being really active. So, anyway. MJ: OK, so you arrive here in Gainesville. What month is it? SP: July. MJ: July of 2008? SP: Yeah. They had just started cranking up here. MJ: OK, so you got involved with-- SP: The first week-- the Obama campaign. MJ: In Florida, was Clinton still in the picture at that point? Or had it been decided? I mean, did you work during the primary or were you already working on the general election? SP: Yeah, the primary. MJ: So you entered through the Obama organization-- SP: Oh yeah, definitely. MJ: --not the Democratic Party? SHEILA PAYNE: No. MJ: Got it, OK. SP: Yeah. And as a matter of fact, the Democratic Party-- I mean, it's pretty cool here, but it's like the Democratic Party in most places. They love the political part. They don't really-- I mean, candidate no matter what. And of course, we all try to help out, even though we may not agree with everything. I actually am really impressed with Obama. I just read the first book he wrote about his dad and organizing, and that's why I like him. It's not even his policy positions, because who knows if he can implement them. It's like the whole health care debate and whether-- you know, who knows if he is going to be able to get anything passed. I mean, I think he's brillant. And I also appreciate that he was a organizer and that's how he set up the campaign, too. The only other campaigns I've spent so much time on were more local ones, like City Council. I've always liked the going to the door, talking to people thing. But this was like really brilliant in the way-- well, I mean, the internet for instance-- I got tired of going to the office and waiting for someone to give me my assignment every day. So I would just pull it off the internet-- you know the walking map and the doors they wanted me to go to. And then I could just enter the information after I got home in the evening, and they downloaded that every night. So that was pretty cool. And I know that's a nationwide-- MJ: And that was run from Chicago? SP: Yeah. They had all the information. It all went to them. I don't like-- some of the stuff I didn't like-- do you want me to say? MJ: Yeah. SP: OK. OK. So I didn't like-- the big thing was going into neighborhoods and just seeing McCain signs, because locally they were-- and it was a national decision-- they were selling the signs as a fundraising. All the money that he was bringing in-- that the campaign was bringing in. And I know it wasn't just about money, it was if you want a sign then you have be willing to pay for it. But you know, I'm going out anyway and a lot of people wanted signs. And it would have been easy for me I think visually, especially in a conservative area, it's important to see what your neighbor-- the sign they have. Most the neighborhoods I did were in the northwest. I think part of that was they knew I was more familiar since I was new here, but I also think it was the eastside, mostly predominantly black neighborhoods, they put black people there and neighborhood people that those people would know from their communities. And Pat McCullough ran that. I was dying to get over there, but they wanted me over here. Yeah, it was a bummer, especially in the rural areas, going down major highways, seeing-- MJ: So how far out of Gainesville proper did you go? SP: I pretty much stayed-- yeah, I went on the eastside part of the way, but mostly I stayed in neighborhoods. They had me going out towards rural, but no-- like I really wanted to go to Hawthorne or Alachua. I really wanted to go to more conservative-- and they had people already there. So you did what you were told. So I was happy to do that. I actually hit a lot of houses, a lot of neighborhoods several times. So first they were having us go out and poll, which also kind of bummed me out because if I am going to get somebody at home, it would be good to engage them. But they really wanted just to know who they were voting for. It was a check-off. There was like 12 things that you were looking for. One of them was, oh, how are you leaning? It was the whole leaning thing. And I understand that early in the campaign. And you know, he won. It was a brilliant campaign. But still the few times, especially with students, it's not like I thought I could be so persuasive. I think it's important just having someone knocking on the door. I think people, if they know there's a lot of people out there who are willing to give their time, I think that can make a difference. MJ: Right. So we're talking about from July until early November you are doing this-- that whole time in kind of different phases of the campaign. Did you ever get a chance to really have conversations with people about issues and their ideas about the election? SP: Yeah, mostly the students were really wanting to talk about it. And again, I don't feel like I'm that persuasive. And the other thing is, we didn't have a lot of literature until late in the campaign. I kind of felt being involved with more local elections like city council, it was important to leave literature so they'd know that you were there. They didn't want to do that. And it was later in the campaign they realized that it was important to give people some kind of talking points-- some kind of stuff-- to rebuke the stuff that was coming out that the Republicans were saying. But, yeah, especially the students wanted to engage. I met up with a lot of male students, and it was kind of frightening. MJ: Can you tell me about that? SP: Yeah. Assault weapons was a big deal. You would not believe how many 19-year-old men who are students at UF, the first thing they say is he's going to take away my assault weapon. I said, oh, do you have an assault weapon? And they're like, well no, but if I ever need one. That was surprising. It was like very one issue. I don't know. There was such big ideas in the campaign. It seemed like people-- the young people-- would pick one issue. If they were for Obama: It was just big; I think he's wonderful. And if they were against, there was usually one issue, like assault weapons. I was really struck by-- and I kept trying to think about-- I would talk to Paul about it-- if I just was being prejudiced against what I was hearing. But I was really struck by, this is the first area that I've helped in campaigns where the students really voted the way their parents raised them. And doing it in other areas of the country where students were kind of challenging the way they were raised or thinking about different ways, here it was really apparent that they were going to vote the way their parents voted. MJ: So you ran into significant numbers of conservative students? SP: Yeah. A lot. I would say people my age, 52, were for Obama, that were Democrats. At the beginning, they had us just knocking on Democratic doors. And then sometimes, there would be Republicans. They told me don't go to them, but I went anyway, because I was out there so much that I wasn't going to keep passing by doors. And Republicans were really slamming the door, kind of don't come back here, ardently against Obama. MJ: Did you get any observations about the way that race was playing in the election? SP: I think so. MJ: Well, I mean, we all think so. SP: I definitely, when I would go up, especially again, my age, people were really happy about Obama. I swear when I knocked on the door of older white women, they would have this kind of waffling, oh, I'm not sure. These were people from my list, who were registered Democrat and had voted for years, as far as I knew, Democratic. And they said they just didn't think they could vote for him. And when I tried to like talk about issues, they would get sometimes agitated, like you know, I just can't talk about it. I think it was about race. I do. They didn't want to engage on any of the issues. They just said, I just can't vote for him. MJ: So Obama ends up winning the county. Does anybody know what those people did? Did they come back to the Democratic Party or did Obama lose them? What's your sense of that? SP: Well, I don't know. I don't know if they came back. I worked the polls Election Day. I was in a rural area, actually, at the county farmer's market, and there was a lot of early voting, but there were a lot of Democrats in that precinct where I was, who just didn't show up, and I know they didn't vote early, and a lot of them were older, because it was a more elderly population. It was away from the student population. I mean, it's good for me that they chose not to vote, but, yeah, I think they chose to just not vote. MJ: They just sat out? SP: Yeah. MJ: That polling work that you did, did you still feel the clouds of the 2004 and the 2000 elections hovering over those polling sites? I mean since Florida has been such a site of contest over the last couple of election cycles, did you get a sense of that as being relevant to people or is that just kind of past history at this point? SP: Well, I know that I was very impressed with the election officials here. They were here. The ballots, you did get to see them. I was very impressed how carefully they were to make sure everything was done correctly. I think people are aware of it, but I think it's more southern Florida where a lot of the big issues were. I did not hear a lot of people talk about, well my vote doesn't count anyway. Which, when we were living in California, there was a lot discussion about that. I was amazed at how many people, since Paul's a historian and I've read the records, you know, I've been in the archives also, there's a lot of history of people's votes not counting. You know a lot of people-- African Americans-- their votes have always been stolen. And it was like a wake-up call for other people that like, wow, does it count or not? But no, I didn't hear people really concerned. There was abstract stuff on the internet, but I didn't hear people locally talking about, is my vote going to be stolen? MJ: Right, right. SP: But the other thing, the positive thing is at the polls there were a lot of African Americans, I'd say in their 30's, that were frantically looking-- they had moved, not changed where they were to vote. They hadn't gone. And they were frantically doing everything-- they showed up the day of and they had not voted for so many years, they weren't on the rolls and they were frantically-- the election commission was doing everything they could to get people, you know, help them to be able to vote that day. But there were a lot of people who had not voted in years that were showing up. And that was amazing. And it was African Americans in their 30's. MJ: So based on your experience canvassing, you were surprised that Obama took this county? SP: Yeah, I was nervous about it. And especially with the students. I mean it's who's at home? I went at all times of day and the weekends. You know who is at home? They were really pushing in the Obama office a lot of phone canvassing. They had a lot of people in there canvassing. I did some of that from home. I don't like that as much as going to the door. And then they realized the last like three weeks that the response they got-- they can make 10 phone calls in the same time I went to a door, but the response they got was way greater if you go to the door. Because people just don't answer the phone. So they were really pushing getting people out on the street at that point. [Whispers] What was the question? MJ: Well, so then it sounds like from your experience talking to people face to face in your canvassing, that you probably haven't been surprised by the kind of hatred that's been spilling out-- SP: No. No. MJ: --In the recent months, which if you live in a place like New York City or New Haven, Connecticut, it's taken a lot of us by surprise. I mean it was kind of naive of us I suppose, but it's been shocking to see what's been happening around the country: these Tea Parties and the health care debate and just the way-- so can you talk a little bit about how that has looked to you kind of on the ground here in Gainesville in the months since the election? SP: Well, I really resent their using Saul Alinsky's book to organize those. It's like, hey, that's our book. But yeah, you have to say, wow, at least they learned something from the campaign. But, yeah, no, I'm not surprised at all. I really feel like people are so disengaged with partisan politics that it was always about race with him. I thought like the debates were amazing. I felt he showed just how much more together and smarter he was. But here, people didn't really want-- except for the students would want to engage-- I had some Republican men who would want to engage, for a long, you know, they would want to talk for half an hour about why they couldn't vote for him. They talked about distrust. They felt like the stuff they were getting from Fox News was the real deal about him. I feel like distrust was a code word for race, too. And no, I'm not surprised. I think Obama always-- people were always going to use race. If he fails in anything, that he just didn't quite have it. And his background, too. I think his class also. Yeah, I think it's class, not just his race. People were pretty adamant. I had people like slam the door. It wasn't a lot, because people are polite in this community. Like one man who lived with his-- two sisters were going to vote for Obama, and he was just so angry about it, and was like yelling at me in kind of polite way, like he wanted to make sure I knew that it wasn't me. He understood why I was out there. But yeah, he definitely thought that Obama-- he identified him as a socialist then. That he was going to take away everything from the country. [Sound of a packet coming through the mail slot.] MJ: Oh, there's the mail. SP: Yeah. Take me with you! [MJ AND SP laugh.] MJ: You mentioned Saul Alinsky. Can we just go back a little bit and talk about some of the earlier organizing work that you've done? Because it sounds like you have quite a background in that. SP: Well, I worked in the fields growing up so I met Cesar Chavez when I was 15. I heard him speak. He came to where we were working. MJ: What kind of fields are we talking about? SP: Tomato fields in Homestead and other strawberry-- MJ: Homestead is where? SP: Florida. MJ: No, I knew that. But where? What part of Florida? SP: Oh, southern. Right above the Keys. A lot of that farming has-- I was just talking to my dad on the phone about it. Even in Florida they can't compete with Mexican tomatoes anymore. Yeah, so that's what changed my life. And Paul and I met organizing farm workers in Washington state. It was an eight year campaign. So, mostly it's been labor. Well, the group that I was working with when we started doing the farm worker organizing had been together a long time doing Central America work and anti-poverty work. So I'd say that most of my organizing has been some foreign affairs, like Women's International League for Peace and Freedom-- which Santa Cruz has a really radical group. I was surprised there's not one here. So mostly around labor/work issues. MJ: The workers in Washington state, those were apple-- SP: No. It's the apple campaign now. No, it was Chateau Saint Michelle. MJ: Oh, the wineries. SP: Yeah, which somebody should write a book about. MJ: Oh, we're back to grapes. SP: Yeah [laughs]. MJ: So right, when you were a kid that's what-- SP: Right, yeah. Which, that boycott is over. No one was aware of it anymore. And so, a couple of years ago, my son had never eaten a grape in his life. Because he grew up not-- we didn't have grapes. MJ: That was one of the first kind of political moments that I remember. SP: Well, you know, what was really beautiful is that we were successful in almost every restaurant, like Seattle, Olympia, half of western Washington, we were able to get the wines off the ferries and out of the restaurants. A lot of grocery stores wouldn't carry it anymore. And people really honored the farm worker flag. Even though in a lot of places we weren't asking people to boycott the restaurant-- actually was an independent campaign-- it was the farm workers there who had been trying for years to organize, and only affiliated with UFW at the very end when it came time to negotiate contracts. And that's when the workers lost a little bit of autonomy in how they were going to run the campaign. But we saved a bunch of the papers. There's boxes and boxes in Olympia in storage because somebody needs to write. It was a beautiful campaign. MJ: And when was that? SP: That was-- shoot, Paul would have to tell you. MJ: And the grape workers-- SP: In the '90s, but I'm not... MJ: In the '90s. The grape workers at that point, was it Mexican labor mostly? SP: Yeah. Latino labor. And Chateau Ste. Michelle had been bought by-- the whole group of wines had been bought by U.S. Tobacco, to kind of spruce up their image, because it's beautiful. Have you ever been there? MJ: To Ste. Michelle? SP: The Chateau. Yeah. MJ: No. SP: Oh, there's a beautiful chateau that's on the bottles. I think it was to maybe diversify their holdings. But it's so small that it had nothing to do with economics. They had like a music series. And we had workers out there. And it was like four hours from western Washington where the main Caucasian organizers were-- in the Seattle area, where we were based. And we mostly worked on the consumer boycott side of it. And then later in the campaign, we would go over and stay and go into the camps and talk to the workers about it. And that was when we were gearing up for the apple campaign, which was going to be way different. Because it's easy to ask people to choose a different wine. They feel kind of guilty about all the wine they're drinking, but to ask them to not eat apples and stuff was-- So yeah, it was a beautiful campaign. It lasted eight years from the time that-- it had been going on for a long time. The workers had tried at different times. But what was interesting is that winery-- the bottlers-- the inside workers-- were represented by the Teamsters, who tried to raid the workers, right. Raid the union, right at the end, when we were breaking the company. But they had always been union, but they refused to allow any of the Latino workers. They were not going to negotiate with Mexicans or Latino workers. And they were never promoted to inside. So, yeah, the white workers were inside, represented by the union. Yeah, it was beautiful. People went up to Connecticut for the stockholders' meetings where we had nuns. You know, all the typical campaigning. We would go and do Christmas caroling at the CEO's house. It was a blockaded house. It was really beautiful. The first year we did it in Olympia at a big food and wine festival. Columbia Crest gave like half a million dollars, it was a Catholic college, for this food and wine festival and because the CEO was Catholic and stuff. And of course people were outraged. This is for scholarships for the students and stuff. The first year we had eight people that helped picket. By year five and six, we had 300 to 400 people just lined up, just picketing. It was a great campaign. MJ: What was the most challenging aspect of that work in those Washington campaigns? SP: Well, I guess the workers. Because of course, most of them were under the scrutiny, most of them were undocumented. We had to be careful that they were not arrested. There were quite a few arrests during the eight years of that campaign. And I'd say the challenge was for them to not be afraid of being blacklisted and staying strong. But for us, I guess it was to keep the momentum. You know the thing is, like our group during-- OK, it actually started during the first Gulf War. Would that have been in '81? '91? MJ: '91. SP: Yeah. So it was a group. At one point we had a couple hundred people coming to meetings during the first Gulf War, strategizing. That group became Olympia Movement for Justice and Peace. There was probably 30 people who were really actively involved and stayed actively involved. They had been together on other campaigns. And that was the group that really worked on the farm workers. But you know, it kept the group alive because we had stuff to do. And that's what I wanted to say about the Obama campaign, too. They're were very smart about always having stuff for people to do, even the very end. The last couple days, people really didn't need to go hit those houses again. But it was a way to make them feel like they were doing something. I think that's the key. People don't want to keep showing up. It's like the farm worker campaign. Every week some people would show up at the grocery stores. And they came because they knew other people were going to be there. It's pouring down rain. We're getting soaked because we weren't allowed near the front of the store, as an example. And people showed up because they knew other people were going to be there. And the Obama campaign was really good about having something for everybody to do. And I appreciate that because there's a lot of things-- I've been volunteering at the, one of the voluntary stuff I've been doing is at the food bank, and even if you call and they say they need you and you show up, they never have it together. And so people who are busy or middle class or whatever, they want to get stuff done. They don't want to hang out. So the Obama campaign was really smart here locally about making sure they had stuff so people felt involved-- MJ: So that they were doing something real. SP: --to the very end. You know what kind of bums me out though? There was a lot of issues that I cared about. The big global issues I care about like the war, but I feel less able to do-- you know you can get a million people who will march, like during the Bush campaign, and nothing happens. I mean Paul says historically it slows down the momentum of what's going to happen. I'm not sure if that happened during all that anti-war stuff, which was really beautiful. But, what was I saying? Oh yeah, it's like I know he has to focus. The Obama administration is going to be so sucked into what's happening in Afghanistan and stuff. Those kind of issues have kept so many administrations from being able to move forward. It's like card check is really important. That was why labor people came out. I mean, Obama promised that there would be some kind-- you know who's going to do it now? You can't even get those issues-- And I don't know, it may not happen anyway with the mess, waiting for change and the SEIU and stuff. Maybe this is such a mess, labor now. But working in Latino communities like in Santa Cruz, I did literacy work with Latino women so they could get better jobs and stuff. And worked in a after school program with kids tutoring them and stuff. Labor issues are just so important. Like other people, more intellectual people, like you notice the labor historian, it's like everything is not labor, but really a lot of has to do with dignity of work. I grew up that way. I organized in the fields because it really is true that if you don't have a bathroom in the field--you know, that's like such a small thing to have people have dignity. And that's what farm workers talk about. It's not about pay. It's about how I'm treated. Am I going to be paid for the hour I'm driving to get to where I'm working? Am I going to be sprayed? Can I ask for a mask without feeling like I'm going to lose my job? There was so many issues I was hoping that the Obama administration-- health care. Don't you think its been eye opening that-- I feel like he has, he's so smart about-- I mean I don't think he's surrounded himself with the best economic advisers. I mean Jesus, they've already had their chance. Come on. But like the health care thing, and it just shows. Actually, recently, talking to young people, like we've been doing anti-war and pro-health care reform pickets every week, and informational pickets. And young people are really discouraged because they can see that the intent is there to transform the health care system and that the bureaucracy of Congress and making deals, I think it's going to have a really detrimental effect on young people getting involved next time. MJ: If this just devolves into politics as usual. SP: Yeah, totally. MJ: Well, as an organizer what's your response to-- I mean one of the critiques of Obama has been that he seems to have demobilized his huge grassroots organization in a way that the right didn't. So you have these Tea Parties and you have all this kind of weird street level stuff going on on the right, and there's really nothing to kind of counter it or match it? SP: Well, see, I don't agree. OK, so you have the change like that Pat McCullough's involved with. What's it called? But it's the organization that's still organizing for Obama and trying to get people out. And then you have Move On, which does everything on the internet. There's a really active group locally. I don't like the way they do it. You have to sign up. They don't do local issues. They decide what people are going to work on. But they've been getting people out. So I don't think and I'm not sure you think-- I don't know how many people really think that that's like grassroots organizing. I don't care how many people NPR interviews. They say, oh yeah, I just came on my own. It's all media getting them out. And I think it's good that they're going. You know, I don't want to begrudge that they're willing to come out to mass Tea Parties and stuff. I don't think it's grassroots organizing at all. I think it's all the media getting them out. I think Fox News again. It's not just Fox News but-- I mean they have the same equipment that the left does. A lot of it is by the internet. You know, get out. I don't think it's grassroots. And what does that mean that we're grassroots? I mean, I don't think Move On is supposed to be grassroots. I had a big meeting in my house. People wanted to talk-- to try to, about six months ago, Move On wanted to urge green jobs. And a lot of people showed up. But then there was no strategy. The person facilitating did her best. She had great ideas. We're going to break down into small groups. I don't think Move On is effective that way. I think they can get all of us. They can tell us OK, Friday, the 13th, we're going to go and stand on a street corner to hold signs about health care reform. But I was like e-mailing the person in charge of Florida and saying we have these issues happening in Gainesville. We want to do this stuff. We want to use that e-mail list. I have a phone. We want to phone bank. And they're like no, no, no, we decide. We decide what you're going to work on. I think it's the same way with the Tea Party. MJ: Yeah, clearly. Although it looks like something different from the outside. SP: Well, I think there could be local groups. Here saying, oh, let's do this. And I think somebody else is deciding what those Tea Parties are going to look like or where they're going to go. I don't think it's any different than the way we're doing right now. And I think, like the Obama campaign-- the grassroots, which is-- I don't know if it's grassroots since-- that's why I want you to talk to Pat, because she knows the organization. She was at a picket a couple of weeks ago for health care reform. A public TV station showed up. And she would not be interviewed, because she's not allowed to be as a representative unless she gets the message. MJ: That's interesting. SP: You know, UFW did the same thing when we were actually working for them. It really changed, and I love them. Yeah, I don't think it's grassroots. I don't know what to do. Here, OK, so I've never been that interested-- I've only been here a year, so I'm still finding-- we just started going to Veterans for Peace meetings. Not that they are organizing any better, but their lifestyle is more akin to what, like people on this street are kind of upper middle-class. They're Democrats and they're progressives but they're-- MJ: They're from a different place. SP: Yeah. I'll just tell you, I hope you don't teach-- I don't think people should teach about class unless they actually held a job that they were getting-- they were wage slaves. You know, like at UCSC, there was people in Paul's-- and that's just my opinion after being around them a long time and sitting in on some classes. I just think people can't teach about class intellectually. What can you teach about race? Should Paul be-- I don't know-- should he be teaching about African Americans? I think he does a good job, so maybe what I'm saying is full of crap. MJ: Let's come back to the local just for a second. You started out with the postal service and the hiring freeze. Can you talk a little bit about how you see the economic situation here in Gainesville and maybe in the longer run since you were in Florida much earlier and now you're back, like just economically how you see what's gone on in this neck of the woods? SP: Well here in Gainvesville, I have to compete with young students. But of course they're not able to do some of the jobs. I just got hired to drive a school bus, and they probably couldn't do that. I'm still more able to do other jobs that they're not, but I see people-- there's a high crime rate here. It's like dude, if you can't get a job, you gotta eat. You know? It's like going back to the assault weapons thing, digressing again, this year I got my teaching certification from Santa Fe College. It was a community college and for people who already have bachelor degrees. It's an accelerated program. And there was this woman in my class who was delightful. She was probably 25. And she would always try to bring up how you better go and get enough guns and bullets. And people are really afraid. She was stockpiling bullets in case you need them because there's gonna-- And just this week, my dad, who does listen to Fox News, was telling me, and lives in Alabama-- "Sheila, people"-- and actually, I heard somebody else and it was on the picket line and I can't remember who they were-- "people are going to need to grow gardens and they better have guns because there is going to be-- people are going to be rampaging because they're going to be hungry." I hear it here. That's why hopefully you can interview some people in the more rural areas that have a stronger belief that I have peripheral contact with. Yeah, people really do believe that there's going to be some kind of breakdown in society I think. This morning they were saying they are going to extend the unemployment benefits. People resent that. I'm working. Why are my taxes paying for people still. People who aren't looking for more work. And also the bail-out of housing, people really resented that. I heard a lot of people here. And actually people would want to talk to me. On the picket line when we're talking to people, people want to talk about the bail-outs. That's it's really unfair. It hasn't filtered down to them. So I think people are afraid. I'm kind of freaked out, four degrees. Mine is because of health issues, though. It's hard for me work inside. I get severe asthma indoors with new conditions, like the school that I was interning at and that I'm working at. I can only stay inside for a short while before the asthma is really bad. So for me it's like different. I have a lot more-- I could like get so many more jobs than other people, but when you can't even get-- I mean I applied everywhere. You know, places I've picketed before like Walmart because of their labor practices, and I couldn't even get an interview. And so I just don't know. The jobs just aren't out there. I mean there's only so many jobs. So I don't know what people are going to do. MJ: Is there any kind of a militia movement in Florida? SP: Oh, yeah. Oh, definitely. You need to go out to Waldo's Farmer's Market when you get out. MJ: Yeah, I'm going to go out there tomorrow. SP: You'll see them. You'll see them walking around. Definitely. And Paul can actually tell you about that, because he follows the stuff from the-- oh, what's it called-- I give them money-- The Southern Poverty Law Center. So he actually will know where they are here, because he actually reads all that literature. But yeah, oh definitely, there is a militia movement. And I guess that freaked me out because this woman I went to class with who was really delightful, just was obsessed with it. And yeah, as everyone knows, there's now a shortage of bullets. MJ: Because they bought them all. SP: You can't even get them! And they're like, see! You can't even go to Walmart and buy your bullets. MJ: Wow. SP: Yeah. I mean I'm really blessed. I'm glad I didn't know that the post office wasn't going to pick me up or else I wouldn't have come. I would have maybe chosen to wait to come and take care of my mom because now I won't have to regret that because who knew she would die so quickly. I don't have to work financially, except we help-- we give a lot of money away. We won't starve. We won't have to sell our house. We won't starve. But as a person who's like defined by work, I was the best mail carrier every place I worked. It's like really freaky to me. So I think it's more than just economics. I think it's like even people who have never-- to come to Gainesville from a $25 an hour job and be applying for $8 an hour-- even people making $8 an hour, it's important to them that they have that work. Like my son works at the movie theater and they've cut. He always seems to get five days because he'll do maintenance or whatever. But they've got some people working one day a week. And then if it's slow, they send them home. Now a lot of them are students. Gainesville is particularly hard because of all the students. If they're going to hire a waitress, they'd rather hire a young-- this sounds so bitter-- a young, beautiful student than an older person who may have more experience, because that's, a lot of the clientele are students so I get it. MJ: And they can pay them less. And there's a whole bunch of other stuff that-- SP: Yeah. I'm like, yeah. I was Labor Organizer of the Year in Washington state one year. And I actually took that off my resume a couple of months ago. I've gotten all these awards for different things and I thought, you know, maybe I should just take that off. MJ: Walmart is probably not going for that. SP: I don't know how carefully they're going to look, but I should really take that off. MJ: Well, I'm really grateful to you for taking so much time to talk to me. Is there anything that we didn't discuss that you feel like you would like to? SP: OK, let's see. Assault weapons-- I guess I didn't have that much-- I always worked 60 to 70 hour weeks, so I wasn't this involved with any other campaign, but it seemed to work. I thought it was brilliant the way they did it. Some of the stuff I kind of bucked against like I thought there should have been more dialogue with people that we met up with for the next time. I'm always thinking about oh, the next campaign or other issues. MJ: Right. Building something. SP: Right. So they were definitely into just getting information from them. Don't spend a lot of time. I felt like I could what I want, because I think so much more time than other people and I was way faster. But it might have been useful now, but maybe not. Maybe that stuff would have all been forgotten when it came down to it. I think people, because of the economics, I think everybody's afraid. My little sister in Alabama who owns her own business is afraid. Everybody's afraid they're going to get laid off. That may override anything else. And I think with Obama and the people in charge of the economic part of it, maybe I just don't understand it well enough. But it really sucks they have the same people. But you know with Clinton, like we were talking about, with the book that just came out and stuff, that he does not regret the whole welfare [reform]-- how that came down. And I know at the time our group was doing, actually the kind of subcommitee, even though they weren't really committees that worked on the welfare reform, the group that I was involved with in Olympia-- there's still tent cities and stuff. He does not regret how that came down. And the same thing with NAFTA. MJ: Those were huge turning points. SP: Yeah. MJ: Frankly, I think one of the real turning points in the kind of tenor of national politics in the last 20 years was the Lanny Guinier nomination. When he just let the lie stand—and backed down from it [the nomination]-- he emboldened a whole different kind of politics. And that's all we've seen ever since. SP: Wow! Seeing that it's at that point. I hate those politics. MJ: I know. And it's hard to know how we can recover from it. SP: Yeah. Maybe there's no turning back now. MJ: Yeah, I don't know. SP: Well, that's why it would be really good-- one thing, Pat could have given you names, I really was hoping you could interview some of the older black people from the east, the communities there-- MJ: Well, I may just have to arrange to come back. SP: Because they've been doing stuff a lot of decades here. Actually, Paul should have told you Joelle, too. Did you hear Joelle's name? MJ: Uh-uh. SP: Joelle would be good. I don't think he was as involved in the campaigns. He had health, he had something happen, which they thought was a stroke but now they found it wasn't, at the time. I mean if you could talk, because they have been in the Gainesville community forever, in a rural area. I really wanted so badly to work in the black communities and also on campus. They had young people on campus. Just because I like their energy. Yeah, that would be interesting if you could try to hook in. MJ: Maybe I can arrange to come back and do a second round. SP: Well, you'll have other people. MJ: Yeah. SP: But maybe we could-- if you do decide to come back, I could try to set up those interviews for you so that you could bing, bing, bing, which if you ask Paul how he did it when he went, they did a lot. MJ: Yeah, I'm going to be talking to him later today, so I can get some tips on just the logistics of this. SP: He really spent a lot of time. But then, his was-- even though you have it set up here because of the Democrat community-- but his was, Paul was always interested in labor, so he could go to try to connect with labor people. After a while, he just had people who would move him on. They would call-- MJ: One thing. Right, right, right. SP: Well, good luck, man.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *