Penny Barrett, an activist from Troy Hill is a tough lady to nail down. The mother to four kids and four grandkids is always on the go. I was able to finally catch up with her last week in between errands before her camping trip. Penny was one of two people able to take a trip to Wisconsin to help get voters to the poll during the recent recall election of Gov. Scott Walker, so it was nice to check in with the Pittsburgh native. I learned quite a bit about Mrs. Barrett, the least of which being her organizing the school bus drivers to form a union. Needless to say Mrs. Barrett knows what it takes to stand up and win, making Pittsburgh lucky to have her.
Me: Penny, tell me how you first got involved with One Pittsburgh.
Penny: Oh it was kind of funny. I was telling all my neighbors not to buy gas as Exxon because I was learning about all this money they were making and not paying taxes on it. Then Glenn Grayson [One Pittsburgh Organizer] knocked on my door. He was talking about a lot of the same stuff I had been and was actually inviting people to an action calling Exxon out on not paying taxes in the Commonwealth. So that’s when I first started getting involved with yinz. Then Kristy [One Pittsburgh Organizer] just kept me in the loop about what you were doing and I started to get more and more involved, coming out to things.
Me: So Penny, you spent 9 days in Wisconsin leading up to the recall election on June 5. What did you, and Jon Walker [One Pittsburgh Organizer] do while you were there?
Penny: Well, we got there the week of May 28 and we just knocked on as many doors as we could; everyday all day. We talked to voters about what was as stake, what Walker the current Governor is doing to the state, versus what Barrett, the other candidate could do for the state. On Election Day we just made sure people had a chance to get to the polls, giving rides if we had to. It was kind of funny for Jon and I to be there at the same time. His last name is Walker and mine is Barrett, so we shared names with the candidates.
Me: What do you remember most about your time in Wisconsin?
Penny: Well, Wisconsin is beautiful. Outside of that, I learned how important it is that we get organized and that we get organized now. They will take away everything we have fought for if we are not paying attention. It’s time to get registered, get educated and start voting for candidates that will do the work, not just create laws that are favors for their super-rich friends.
Me: Speaking of voting, you have been doing some investigative work around our new voter ID law. What have you learned about the law in your research?
Penny: Ha, where do I begin? First and foremost it feels like the DMV is not prepared to actually provide a free voter ID for people, I was told it was $13.50 and I know others who have paid that. Then I learned that people who go by their married name, might not be able to get a new ID if the last name doesn’t match the birth certificate. I mean it’s a real hassle to sort out all the details. In short, I learned the law is about suppressing votes. (It should be noted that House Majority Leader Mike Turzai said as much at a Republican fundraiser, stating that the law will allow Gov. Romney to secure Pennsylvania in the November election.)
Me: Penny, thanks for taking a moment for me. It’s always nice to catch up with you. Do you have any parting words you would like to share with the newsletter readers?
Penny: Just that it is so important that we are out there talking to our neighbors, making sure people are registered to vote, that they are educated about the candidates and that we are organized. Otherwise those fat cats in Wall Street will continue to steam roll us.