Labor Joins "Occupy America" Movement

One of the many amazing things about the 150 protests that began Thursday, October 6 across the nation, is labor's eager participation. I went to the initial gathering at Pike Park in Dallas and found Firefighters, Transport Workers, and Communications Workers gathering to help. At least one local union president, Eric Wilson of CWA 6215, was in the group. A lot of other worker justice activists are trying to figure out how they can help.

On Saturday morning, they seemed to have plenty of food and water. The list of needs posted at the Pioneer Park (Young and Griffin in downtown Dallas) encampment was as follows:


worker protesting

The Thursday march to the Federal Reserve building included well over 400 very enthusiastic people, and their diversity was most impressive. They were all ages, kinds, and colors. They camped out that night at the Kennedy Memorial. On Friday, they moved to Pioneer Park and, around noon, launched another big downtown protest. Their targets were the Bank of America and Chase Bank, the two biggest buildings in downtown. "Banks got bailed out, we got sold out!" was our most original and impressive chant. All the signs are hand-made and original. The most clever one that I saw, carried by a man in a black suit and tie, said, "I will believe that corporations are people when Texas executes one!"

What Will They Do Next?

The protesters are making their decisions democratically as they go. Their exact next moves cannot be anticipated. Their biggest opportunity to draw the kinds of crowd that can truly make a difference is during this weekend of October 8th. Check or their twitter account ;occupydallas for updates.

At Pike Park, I read AFL-CIO President Richard Trumpka's warm endorsement of the movement:

" Occupy Wall Street has captured the imagination and passion of millions
of Americans who have lost hope that our nation’s policymakers are
speaking for them. We support the protesters in their determination to
hold Wall Street accountable and create good jobs. We are proud that
today on Wall Street, bus drivers, painters, nurses and utility workers are
joining students and homeowners, the unemployed and the
underemployed to call for fundamental change. Across America, working
people are turning out with their friends and neighbors in parks,
congregations and union halls to express their frustration – and anger --
about our country’s staggering wealth gap, the lack of work for people
who want to work and the corrupting of our politics by business and
financial elites. The people who do the work to keep our great country
running are being robbed not only of income, but of a voice. It is time for all of us—the 99 percent—to be heard.

As we did when we marched on Wall Street last year, working people call
on corporations, big banks, and the financial industry to do their part to create good jobs, stop foreclosures and pay their fair share of taxes.

• Wall Street and corporate America must invest in America: Big
corporations should invest some of the $2 trillion in cash they have on
hand, and use it to create good jobs. And the banks themselves should
be making credit more accessible to small businesses, instead of parking
almost $1 trillion at the Federal Reserve.

• Stop foreclosures: Banks should write down the 14 million mortgages
that are underwater and stop the more than 10 million pending
foreclosures to stop the downward spiral of our housing markets and
inject more than $70 billion into our economy.

• Fund education and jobs by taxing financial speculation: A tiny tax on
financial transactions could raise hundreds of billions in revenue that
could fund education and create jobs rebuilding our country. And it
would discourage speculation and encourage long term investment.

We will open our union halls and community centers as well as our arms
and our hearts to those with the courage to stand up and demand a better
America. "

I had to stop after each sentence for applause.

According to Communications Director Ed Sills, the Texas AFL-CIO is throwing itself into the Austin demonstrations. News reports said that they drew over 1,300 at their initial action. Occupations are also underway in San Antonio, El Paso, and McAllen, according to Sills. There may be even more by now.