October 8, 2010

Posted on October 08, 2010 at 19:44 PM

This month, I know I should be writing about how important it is to get out the vote but I will not. There’s been enough preaching to the choir on this subject already, and we need to stop kidding ourselves about the amount of power and sway we truly have in the political arena (thanks, in large part, to the result of the Citizens United v. Hillary Clinton case which I’ve previously devoted a column to.) The bottom line is that we’ll win some and lose some, same as always, regardless of how hard we work in our efforts to elect worker-friendly candidates. Michael Bennet may, indeed, lose to Ken Buck, despite all of our efforts, not because he isn’t the superior candidate but because he has (in my humble opinion) done a miserable job of promoting himself as such, instead focusing (at least in the tiresome array of television commercials) on attacking Buck for his personal ideas that he would never be able to see adopted or enforced in his capacity as a United States Senator anyhow. (i.e.; Buck, even should he win, will not have the power or authority to ban abortion any more than he will to legislate a 23% flat sales tax…) I know people really do like negative political ad campaigns, regardless of what they say, because there wouldn’t be so many of them if this were not the case. But I still think a simple I.Q. (or resume) comparison would have been a more effective tactic…

What I would like to do, this month, instead, is to pay some tribute to Mike Kindig. (I missed the opportunity last month, instead submitting a smart-ass piece about Glenn Beck, thankfully too late, that wouldn’t have gone too well with the rest of the issue.) This strikes me as being a whole lot more important, in the big picture, than anything that will happen on November 2, 2010…

As an individual, as well as a representative of both IBEW Local 113 and the Colorado Springs Area Labor Council, I was honored to have the opportunity to attend Mike’s memorial service last month. Though there were plenty of familiar faces, I always feel like a visitor in the big city…

I probably knew Mike less than anyone in attendance but was so touched by the courage of those (in much greater pain than I) who got up to say a few words about Mike, which is one of the single greatest traditions of human history, that even felt compelled to do so myself…

It was honest and heartfelt, which I know was apparent and appreciated, but inarticulate. It was less than someone who helped me as much as Mike did (which was more than he could have ever imagined – both as person and as a Unionist) deserved. It was less than Patricia, his grieving widow (and those who knew him much better) deserved…

In person, those who know me can vouch for the fact that I haven’t been in real great shape, lately, myself – not an absolute train wreck but preoccupied (and terribly saddened by the loss of one of my very best friends of the last 18 years – my dog) to say the least… (I think this has already been established by what I thought was appropriate reading material in last month’s issue – light-hearted satire…) With that in mind, I’d like to make things right. I’d like to do a better job. It’s the Union way…

Mike Kindig was an inspiration to me – just because he did what he did with the Colorado Labor Advocate. To me, all of the other things he did for Labor, that was just a bonus. When I tried to express what I meant, at the service, when I said It’s funny how things work out, I failed pretty badly…

My association with Mike, with the Colorado Labor Advocate, was the very first step I took in becoming an active Union member. I had a little bit of experience doing something that nobody else wanted to do. I was still just an apprentice, and was volunteered (mostly) by my classmates. Suddenly, I had a place (for no better reason than because I could make some people laugh and others furious) in the heart of IBEW Local 113, in the heart of the Labor Movement… I felt like I belonged. I owe so much of that to Mike – who, for something like five and a half years, wouldn’t have put up with me if he didn’t like me. And I’d only ever met him, in person, two or three times and spoken on the phone maybe a handful of times… He would send me an email, every month, with the deadline information that never changed, to remind me to at least start thinking. He told me once, Joe, there’s a difference between the deadline and the deadline. You being anywhere near it just makes my job easier…

I met Mike, for the first time, at the 2006 COPE Convention. He was there, taking pictures and passing out the latest edition of the Advocate, which was hot off the press.

My column had, for the first time, made the cover. When we met and shook hands, he smiled and said; don’t think you made the cover because it was good. It was late and the first page was where it fit…

Only once in a while would Mike even comment (by email) about a column I’d turned in, predictably, at least one day past deadline. But once, he actually called me on the phone. The article was the one I wrote about being a drunk. He said it was one of the bravest, most honest things I’d ever done. I told him the truth was easy. Comedy and real news was hard…

Like I said, I wish I would have known Mike better. I’d be an even richer person for the experience. You always just think there’s going to be more time and, then, all of the sudden, there isn’t. Even when we have time to prepare, there is no such thing. We learn over and over again, and hope to eventually understand…

Mike will be remembered, I think, with giants – not necessarily because he was good but because it’s where he fits. We’re already standing on his shoulders…

Patricia, friends and relatives, Brothers and Sisters, I am so sorry for your great loss but (still) so glad that I got the chance to share even a small part of Mike’s life with you.

Thank you, so much.

Joe Collins

IBEW Local 113

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