Some years back, I got a call one Saturday morning from my friend Gilberto in Austin to ask if I knew people in Milwaukee. Sure, I said, I used to work there. Great, he said “Because Little Joe is playing there this afternoon and wants to know how to get a Union T-shirt so he can wear it when he’s on stage”, adding that Little Joe has always been a strong supporter of Unions, workers and community issues.
“No problem”, I said “I have the right person for you” thinking about Christine who has coordinated major workers campaigns through the Voces de la Frontera workers center. I figured Little Joe was in town for La Fiesta, an annual summer event held by Lake Michigan organized by local Latino organizations that attracts some of the biggest Raza numbers. Ok, Gilberto said and gave me the number of Paul, Little Joe’s assistant put in charge of getting the T-shirt.
Well, getting a hold of Christine was not as easy because I only had her office number which off course nobody answered when I called. No need to leave a message someone will get Monday morning I thought and went on to call Peter, one of my best friends but most important a Labor attorney. Unfortunately when Peter answered his cell phone, he was entering a Madison hospital on a family matter so needless to say our conversation was short. Call me in 90 minutes he said before he hung up. Frankly I was not about to bother him when he had more important matters to attend so I decided to try yet another friend.
Cesar is too a Union activist friend of mine who lives in Milwaukee and someone who I know was active lending support during the solidarity rallies in Madison against Governor Scott Walker. After some small talk, I asked if he had Christine’s cell number. Well, as it turned out Cesar was up north spending the weekend in his ranchito.
After I explained to him the reason for my call he said he was aware of Little Joe’s concert in Milwaukee and went on to say that he had Christine’s cell number back at home. He did mention however that he knew Michael, one of the persons in Milwaukee who coordinated Labor solidarity support for the rallies in the Capitol. So after a short search he found Michael’s number and said “give him a call and let me call you back in ten minutes”, adding that he’ll call home to get Christine’s cell number for me. Ok, I said and went on to my quest.
All the while I was looking at the clock because when I got the call from Gilberto it was around 11:30 and he mentioned that Little Joe would be playing around 2:30 in the afternoon. The only thing I had in my favor was that Wisconsin is an hour before Michigan. But in the back of my mind I knew I only had a couple of hours to get a Union
T-shirt before the concert started.
I did try Michael and, as I suspected I got another voicemail to talk into. I did leave a message and then I remembered that Labor Notes had organized a couple of organizing schools in Chicago and Wisconsin so I figured they should have Union contacts in Milwaukee.
All I needed to do is contact the schools coordinator only that I was drawing a blank on his name since I hadn’t talked to him in a long while. I went down the list of names in my cell phone and my email box but nothing triggered my memory.
Then, I remembered he was one of the people on my Facebook. I don’t know why but over 50 percent of the people I call never pick up. So after I tried him I figured I better make a direct call to Mark, the director of Labor Notes and yet again, I left another message.
It had been after two hours when I got the call back from Peter. He was on his way back to Milwaukee after his hospital visit. After we talked about his family issue he asked me what I needed so after I explained he said Little Joe was one of his favorites.
After reminiscing about his music for a while he said let me look into my cell to get Christine’s number adding that he had to pull over because he had just gotten a smart cell phone and was still learning how to use it. As I am talking to Peter I noticed a call coming in from an undisclosed number so I let it go since I make it a practice not to answer calls when there is no number displayed.
I tell Peter I better call him back once he has found Christine’s number in his smart cell phone. Meanwhile I noticed that the unidentified caller left a message. It turned out that the undisclosed number was from Michael, Cesar’s contact responding to my call from his office. As I was about to call him back, the phone rings again and this time it was Mark from Labor Notes who gave me a contact in Milwaukee from the Steelworkers.
This helps I said but it was the public workers unions who were leading the protest rallies. “Right”, Mark said “…but he can give you a lead with some of the teachers and city workers unions”. Right on, I thought.
It’s now after one in Milwaukee with barely an hour to get a Union T-shirt to Little Joe and after seven leads I’m not even close. I decided to return Michael’s call and explained the whole thing to him which frankly seemed to be too much for him.
First of all he didn’t know who Little Joe was and besides, he had plans with the family. I can help you with a shirt he said the question is how do we get the shirt to him?
Long story short, things were not as complicated because it happened that he was calling me from his downtown office and I figured Little Joe’s staff would be staying in the downtown area. So the rest was easy I dialed Paul’s cell number who was already expecting my call.
I’d expect Paul to be freaking out since we were working against the clock but he was pretty cool I think he was actually giving his secretary a hard time when I called, so I gave him Michael’s number and told him he had five T-shirts ready to get picked up.
Later on around 5 I got a call from Gilberto to thank me, saying that Paul had called him to tell him that Little Joe got the T-shirts delivered to the stage when he was performing.
“No Gilberto”, I replied, “gracias a ti y a Little Joe por ayudar a la causa de los trabajadores”.