“Their goals are our goals.”
Union members joined the “Occupy Wall Street” protest on Oct. 5 in a march that stretched over a dozen blocks in downtown Manhattan.
Labor unions on Oct. 5 gave a shot in the arm to the “Occupy Wall Street” protest as union members joined thousands of protesters in a march through lower Manhattan. At the same time, students at several colleges walked out of classes in solidarity.
What began as a quixotic protest by a few dozen young people is beginning to look a lot like the start of a movement.
Sterling W. Roberson, vice president for the United Federation of Teachers, said union members shared the same ideals as activists who have been camped out in sleeping bags for more than two weeks.
“The middle class is taking the burden but the wealthiest of our state and country are not,” he said.
Although largely without leaders, the burgeoning protest has a focus on Wall Street and what it has come to represent since the economic collapse in 2008: corporate greed, income inequality, high unemployment, and corruption. Many of the protesters are calling for fundamental changes in America’s financial and political system, which they say gives inordinate influence to the nation’s wealthiest 1%.
During the Oct. 5 march some carried placards and shouted slogans denouncing corporate excess, while others said they were “fed up” with high unemployment and a lack of economic opportunity.
As has become common with other recent movements, word seems to be traveling fast with the aid of social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Like-minded gatherings have been reported in Seattle, Hartford, Boston, Savananah and elsewhere, with more demonstrations expected on Oct. 6 in Washington D.C. and Tampa.
“It’s really simple. These young people on Wall Street are giving voice to many of the problems that working people in America have been confronting over the last several years,” said Larry Hanley, international president of the Amalgamated Transit Union.
“These young people are speaking for the vast majority of Americans who are frustrated by the bankers and brokers who have profited on the backs of hard-working people,” Hanley added in a statement reported by CNN. “While we battle it out day after day, month after month, the millionaires and billionaires on Wall Street sit by — untouched — and lecture us on the level of our sacrifice.”
“Their Goals are Our Goals”
Transport Workers Union Local 100 spokesman Jim Gannon said the Occupy Wall Street movement, which denounces social inequities in the financial system and draws inspiration from the Arab Spring revolutions in Africa and the Middle East, has advanced issues that unions typically support.
“Their goals are our goals,” Gannon said. “They brought a spotlight on issues that we’ve believed in for quite some time now. … Wall Street caused the implosion in the first place and is getting away scot-free while workers, transit workers, everybody, is forced to pay for their excesses.
President Michael Mulgrew of the United Federation of Teachers, the sole bargaining agent for most nonsupervisory New York City public teachers, with 200,000 members, said he was proud to support the demonstrators.
“The way our society is now headed, it does not work for 99% of people, so when Occupy Wall Street started … they kept to it and they’ve been able to create a national conversation that we think should have been going on for years,” Mulgrew said.
The protest campaign — which uses the hashtag #occupywallstreet on the microblogging site Twitter — began in July with the launch of a campaign website calling for a march and sit-in at the New York Stock Exchange.