"For me, the most important lesson
[of the Freedom Movement] is that by respecting the fact that fellow activists could passionately disagree over strategy and tactics—yet remain allies—they strengthened SNCC and the Movement as a whole."
From Bruce Hartford's article in the current issue of Urban Habitat.
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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Labor joins Occupy Wall Street

from NY Times -- Seeking Energy, Unions Join Protest Against Wall Street

So, one of my key components of a social movement is now being fulfilled -- COALTION BUILDING!

When the college students at HBCUs (historical black colleges and universities) staged their sit-ins at 50 plus locations in 1960, CORE, NAACP and SCLC wanted the youngsters to become youth chapters within the adult led organizations.  Ella Baker, however, advised the students to create their own organization -- SNCC.  Baker and King organized a conference at Shaw University which allowed the students to create an independent organization.  At the conference, Baker and other veterans helped the students define what their organization was about.  I am hoping that the Occupy Wall Street youth are in the process of consulting with veteran organizers as they refine their understanding of what is involved if you want nonviolent direct action to be effective.  Look in the selections below what the labor movement can contribute to the Occupy Wall Street folks (e.g., learning how to articulate specific demands directed at those who can grant them). 

Also of note in this article (selected quotations below) is the concept of a "counterweight to the Tea Party."  One of the reasons Obama has had to drift so far to the right in his policy making and in his "pre-emptive compromises" with the Republican leadership is that there HAS YET TO BE a counterweight to the Tea Party.  But remember -- the Tea Party Caucus has 62 members in the House of Representatives and 4 Senators.  We have a long way to go before we get Obama the political counterweight that will allow him to move back to left-of-center.  But what a terrific beginning.....movements move...let's hope this one can do so.
Stuart Appelbaum, an influential union leader in New York City, was in Tunisia last month, advising the fledgling labor movement there, when he received a flurry of phone calls and e-mails alerting him to the rumblings of something back home. ...and on Wednesday, several prominent unions, struggling to gain traction on their own, made their first effort to join forces with Occupy Wall Street. Thousands of union members marched with the protesters from Foley Square to their encampment in nearby Zuccotti Park

Several major labor groups — including the Transport Workers Union, the Service Employees International Union, the United Federation of Teachers and the United Auto Workers — took part in the march on Wednesday. Some more traditionally conservative ones, like those in the construction trades, stayed away.

Several union leaders complained that their own protests over the past two years had received little attention, though they had put far more people on the streets than Occupy Wall Street has. A labor rally in Washington last October drew more than 100,000 people, with little news media coverage.

Behind the scenes in recent days, union leaders have debated how to respond to Occupy Wall Street. In internal discussions, some voiced worries that if labor were perceived as trying to co-opt the movement, it might alienate the protesters and touch off a backlash. Others said they were wary of being embarrassed by the far-left activists in the group who have repeatedly denounced the United States government.

The labor leaders said they hoped Occupy Wall Street would serve as a counterweight to the Tea Party and help pressure President Obama and Congress to focus on job creation and other concerns important to unions.

Still, it may not be easy for organized labor to mesh with this new movement. Labor unions generally represent older workers, while the Occupy Wall Street protesters are younger. Unions are hierarchical, while the Occupy Wall Street protesters are more loosely knit and like to see themselves as highly democratic.

Unions invariably have a long and specific list of demands, while Occupy Wall Street has not articulated formal ones. Union leaders often like the limelight, while Occupy Wall Street is largely leaderless.

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