September 2011, Week 5


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Portside Labor <[log in to unmask]>
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Fri, 30 Sep 2011 20:12:34 -0400
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Why TWU Local 100 Is Supporting Occupy Wall Street


The Transport Workers Union Local 100 applauds the
courage of the young people on Wall Street who are
dramatically demonstrating for what our position has
been for some time: the shared sacrifice preached by
government officials looks awfully like a one-way
street. Workers and ordinary citizens are putting up
all the sacrifice, and the financiers who imploded our
economy are getting away scot-free, increasing their
holdings and bonuses.

Young people face a bleak future with high
unemployment, and minimum wage jobs. Public sector
workers face Mayors and Governors who demand massive
wage and benefits givebacks or face thousands of
layoffs. That's not bargaining. That's blackmail.

One out of six Americans lives in poverty today, and
the richest one percent control more wealth than at any
time since the Gilded Age of the 1920's.

The TWU Local 100 Executive Board is united in our
determination that this state of affairs is dangerous
for America and destructive to its citizenry. We
support the Wall Street protesters and their goal to
reduce inequality and support every American's right to
a decent job, health care, and retirement security.

Labor Movement Rolls Into Wall Street Occupation 

By Michelle Chen

Friday Sep 30, 2011 9:22 am 


The steel and concrete of Lower Manhattan comes alive
every day during rush hour, when gray suits pulse
through subway tunnels and the city's arteries get
choked with street vendors, construction workers and
other folks hustling to make a living. Now that a bunch
of rabble-rousers have occupied the neighborhood, the
workers who form Gotham's backbone are starting to
reclaim their turf as well.

It may be too early to draw parallels between the
Occupy Wall Street protests at Zuccotti Park (aka
Liberty Plaza) and their antecedents in Tahrir Square
and Madison. But the movements suggest a general
trajectory of grassroots organizing: a spark of protest
led by younger activists, followed by the support of
labor organizations, bringing up the rear and then
moving to the fore.

By Wednesday, the Village Voice reported, the
historically militant Transport Workers Union had voted
to back, and provide food and services to, the Occupy
Wall Street movement. In a video recorded during an
evening protest, TWU Local 100 member Christine
Williams declared, "The people have finally woke up.
And we're here and we're staying and we're not going

TWU spokesperson Jim Gannon told the Voice: " A motion
was brought up to endorse the protests' goals; I don't
know why it took us so long to do it." Better late than
never, the union says it now plans to amass on the
afternoon of October 5 and march to Zuccotti Park.

Other labor-oriented solidarity actions have been
undertaken by professors at the City University of New
York affiliated with the Professional Staff Congress
union (of which this author is also a member). Their
group, Solidarity with OWS, is organizing a
demonstration against police abuse this Friday
afternoon. (Other notable lefty academic allies include
Frances Fox Piven, Christian Parenti, and Stanley

According to Crain's New York Business, local unions
are collaborating with community-based groups such as
Make the Road New York, Coalition for the Homeless and
Community Voices Heard -- all organizations that are in
daily contact with the struggles of the city's poor and

The city's doormen, security guards and maintenance
workers see common ground with the occupation, too. The
Huffington Post reports that their union, SEIU 32BJ,
said that a planned October 12 rally would embrace the
current protests' theme:

"The call went out over a month ago, before actually
the occupancy of Wall Street took place," said 32BJ
spokesman Kwame Patterson. Now, he added, "we're all
coming under one cause, even though we have our
different initiatives."

The General Assembly, a proudly amorphous body that is
helping coordinate the demonstrations, has set up a
Labor Support and Outreach Working Group, which,
according to September 29 meeting minutes posted to the
Assembly's website, has encouraged protesters to join a
demonstration of the Communication Workers of America
nearby. Organizers are reportedly gearing up "to carry
out a very creative direct action in support of the
phone workers."

The convergence between the Wall Street occupation and
labor activism may escalate in the coming days amid a
standoff between New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and
public sector workers. The statewide Public Employees
Federation just voted narrowly to reject a five-year
contract that would have staved off layoffs at the
expense of higher healthcare costs and wage freezes. On
Tuesday, PEF union president Kenneth Brynien told
reporters that when members saw the concessions
demanded of them, "The sacrifices were too great, and
they said, 'Enough is enough."

That axiom would fit nicely among the panoply of
anticapitalist slogans that protesters have displayed
in Downtown Manhattan, proclaiming "People over Profit"
and "Heal America, Tax Wall Street."

As sister campaigns emerge in other areas under the
banner of "Occupy Together," the Wall Street actions
could serve as a kind of petri dish for future protest
tactics, building on the occupational groundwork laid
by smaller demonstrations, such as a recent encampment
at City Hall to protest budget cuts, and a Wall Street
protest in May that drew union support from 1199 SEIU
and the United Federation of Teachers.

As ITT's Akito Yoshikane reported, the lifeblood of the
protests has been the young and the frustrated. But the
occupation also represents swelling resentment across
all sectors of society -- covering expressly the 99
percent of us who are getting screwed and shafted by
corporate moguls and, more tragically, our own elected

Yet the proactive anger has been building in the labor
movement far from Wall Street. An editorial by the
Socialist Worker points to protests in recent months --
by longshoremen in Washington, striking hospital
workers in California, and the groundbreaking Verizon
strikers -- as signs of new "fighting mood" among the
rank and file:

Workers haven't yet prevailed in all of these
struggles, nor will all of them win in the future. But
what unites these fights is the activism and solidarity
on display, despite a hostile corporate media and
aggressive employers.

Labor's new sparks of resistance are proof positive
that the defiant spirit of the battle in Wisconsin last
winter wasn't a flash in the pan, but a sign that
growing numbers of working people are rediscovering
their capacity to struggle. After decades of a
one-sided class war, the fightback has begun.

Whether organized labor is finally catching up to youth
activists, or the young occupiers are at last
rekindling an older legacy of mass resistance, the
cross-fertilization of movements is underway. Don't ask
the diverse alliance to state their agenda -- the
movement is organically structured, with no formal
"list of demands" yet, and that's part of the fun. Not
everyone came to Wall Street knowing exactly what they
wanted, but everyone there today knows they've had
enough, and that they're not the only ones.


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