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Posts Tagged ‘unions’

Occupying Wall Street with Nurses, Teachers, Transit Workers, and the Rest of America’s Middle Class

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

We are the 99% . . . You are the 99%.”

“Banks got bailed out / We got sold out!”

“Whose street? Our street!”

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This Is Not the Fringe.
This Is the Middle Class.

Yesterday into last night we gathered near New York’s City Hall and marched with what looked and felt like at least 100,000 “marginal fringe elements” such as nurses’ and teachers’ unions, the New York City Transit Workers’ union, the AFL-CIO, and innumerable others through Lower Manhattan to Zuccotti Park near Wall Street, the home base of Occupy Wall Street. We’ve been on numerous protest rallies in Manhattan and Washington and London with hundreds of thousands, and this felt as jam-packed as the anti–Iraq War marches in 2003, 2004, 2005.

But this—this feels like a revolution.

Yesterday’s marchers in the tens of thousands were nurses, teachers, professors, bus drivers, subway track workers, secretaries, students, at least one World War II veteran on an aluminum walker (according to the sign around his neck), many children on foot and in strollers, and so on. This is the middle class. As the signs and chants say, “We are the 99%. You are the 99%.”

Among the unions that announced their support and sent members to the march were National Nurses United, AFL-CIO (AFSCME), United Federation of Teachers, New York State United Teachers, Service Employees International Union, SEIU 1199, the Transport Workers Union, Transit Workers Union Local 100, Working Families Party, Communications Workers of America, United Auto Workers, and Writers Guild East. (Click here for a longer list.)

A Few Things to Know about Occupy Wall Street 

•  Whatever you see on TV or read in the newspaper is probably a distortion, a minimizing dismissal, a marginalizing caricature. If you want the view of a seasoned journalist who has spent a lot of time with the OWS activists, read Chris Hedges, Pulitzer Prize–winning former New York Times reporter, at Truthdig and hear this interview with him. He describes the Occupy Wall Street activists as “the best among us.” See the video of Nobel Prize–winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Jeff Madrick, author of Age of Greed, talking with the Occupants last weekend through the “people’s microphone” (bullhorns are forbidden).

•  The OWS organizers, a loose-knit, non-hierarchical network, are not fringey radicals, but mostly well-educated, social media–savvy young people, creative and resourceful, and organized. They have worked hard in school but there are no jobs. The system—both the economy down to its foundations and the government—is not working for anyone but 1%. It’s over.

•  The Occupation was inspired by both Tahrir Square, Cairo, and the Arab Spring, and by Adbusters.org. See New York magazine’s revealing findings in “Meet the Occupants.” Learn more at OccupyWallSt.org.

•  This Occupation is not limited to Wall Street in Lower Manhattan. Occupy Together lists meetups in 588 cities. L.A. Chicago. Philadelphia. Boston. Seattle. Albuquerque . . . Tomorrow, more. London, you’re next. See map below.

•  The activists are not “unfocused” or lacking in specific aims. They have some very specific demands, including raising the tax rates on upper incomes; calling on the federal government to protect homeowners from arbitrary foreclosures by banks; establishing a financial transactions tax; and closing the “carried interest” and “founders stock” loopholes that, in the words of New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, “allow our wealthiest citizens to pay very low tax rates by pretending that their labor compensation is a capital gain.”

•  Americans prefer Occupy Wall Streeters to Congress. New York magazine reports: “A new Rasmussen poll shows that 33 percent of Americans have a favorable view of the Wall Street protesters, compared with the 14 percent or so who said the same about the legislative branch. A whopping 79 percent also agreed with what Rasmussen characterized as the movement’s main statement: ‘The big banks got bailed but the middle class got left behind.’ ”

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Republican War on Working Families

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

It’s Not Only in Wisconsin, America

This TV ad is being launched today in Wisconsin against Gov. Scott Walker and the Republicans. Please help Democracy for America spread the word by clicking here to contribute. Thank you.




In Wisconsin, as in Egypt, “This Is What Democracy Looks Like”

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

“Dr. King’s last act on earth, marching in Memphis, Tenn., was about workers’ rights to collective bargaining and rights to dues checkoff. You cannot remove the roof for the wealthy and remove the floor for the poor.”

Rev. Jesse Jackson Jr. (shown at right holding first-grader Emily Anne)

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We spoke today with Kevin, a teacher and union member in Milwaukee, about his up-close-and-personal view of the protests in Madison against Wisconsin governor Scott Walker’s bill to take away union members’ right to collective bargaining. (Kevin is a cousin of one of our writers; see his YouTube video below.)

Scott Walker, a former Milwaukee County Executive who took office Jan. 3, has given the state legislature a “budget repair” bill that would force most public employees to pay higher portions of health care and retirement benefits and eliminate their right to collective bargaining, a right that Wisconsin state workers won in 1959. (This after giving corporations in Wisconsin a tax break that reduced state revenues by $100+ million.) Walker insists he is trying to balance the state budget; union members see the bill as union-busting plain and simple. Union members have generally agreed to significant financial concessions but refuse to surrender the hard-won right to collective bargaining. Walker insists there will be no negotiating: it’s all or nothing.

(Walker’s gubernatorial campaign received contributions from the billionaire right-wing activist Koch brothers. The Kochs also gave $1 million to the Republican Governors Association, which gave substantially to Walker’s campaign.)

As many as 80,000 protesters marched in the state capitol of Madison on Saturday—cheerfully, peacefully, and determinedly—to stop Walker’s bill. Many signs reflect the recent struggles for freedom in Egypt, Tunisia, and elsewhere in the Middle East.

Kevin says that Walker’s bill is clearly seen by the public as a partisan issue. Democrats and union members are pretty much unanimous against the bill, and even moderate Republicans in Wisconsin see Walker’s all-or-nothing push as extreme, with potentially disastrous consequences. “This is not about money at all; this is about our basic right to have a voice in our workplace, a right we’ve had in Wisconsin since 1959” with the passage of a law guaranteeing public workers’ right to collective bargaining. (See Rachel Maddow’s great summary of how Wisconsin has been at the forefront of workers’ rights for many decades.) Teachers are back at work this week, he says. He is teaching his class—“the students come first”—but then he’ shuttling back to Madison to join in the protests.

It’s a family affair—Kevin and his wife Kelly and their children Joe and Emily are part of the movement—and people of all backgrounds are joining in to defend their rights and their fellow citizens’ rights to bargain collectively, to have a say in the conditions of their workplace. They go first to the capitol to get charged up, then walk around outside to join in the chanting. It’s a festive, positive atmosphere. He writes:

There are some very cool videos of the protests at defendwisconsin.org . . .  I’m making another starring Emily titled “This is What Democracy Looks Like.” Emily picked out the music and knows all the protest shouts: “Walker is a weasel not a badger,” “Union busting, that’s disgusting,” “Forward, not backward” . . . and of course, “Tell me what democracy looks like—This is what democracy looks like!”

Joe thinks it’s cool people are really nice and hand out free food. My union had a ton of stuff left over from a campus event so I put 7 platters of bakery into my van and we all passed it out to hungry protesters. People from all over the world are calling the pizza shop that’s 100 yds from the capitol [Ian’s Pizza on State Street] and ordering pizzas to be taken up to the kids occupying the capitol each night. It’s wonderful. Now dem legislators in Indiana have fled to Illinois as well. The showdown is ON!

This is a national fight that Wisconsin is at the very front of—we will not be silenced!

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