Organized labor’s early flirtation with Occupy Wall Street is starting to get serious.
Union leaders, who were initially cautious in embracing the Occupy movement, have in recent weeks showered the protesters with help — tents, air mattresses, propane heaters and tons of food. The protesters, for their part, have joined in union marches and picket lines across the nation. About 100 protesters from Occupy Wall Street are expected to join a Teamsters picket line at the Sotheby’s auction house in Manhattan on Wednesday night to back the union in a bitter contract fight.
Labor unions, marveling at how the protesters have fired up the public on traditional labor issues like income inequality, are also starting to embrace some of the bold tactics and social media skills of the Occupy movement.
Last Wednesday, a union transit worker and a retired Teamster were arrested for civil disobedience inside Sotheby’s after sneaking through the entrance to harangue those attending an auction — echoing the lunchtime ruckus that Occupy Wall Street protesters caused weeks earlier at two well-known Manhattan restaurants owned by Danny Meyer, a Sotheby’s board member.
Organized labor’s public relations staff is also using Twitter, Tumblr and other social media much more aggressively after seeing how the Occupy protesters have used those services to mobilize support by immediately transmitting photos and videos of marches, tear-gassing and arrests. The Teamsters, for example, have beefed up their daily blog and posted many more photos of their battles with BMW, US Foods and Sotheby’s on Facebook and Twitter.
“The Occupy movement has changed unions,” said Stuart Appelbaum, the president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. “You’re seeing a lot more unions wanting to be aggressive in their messaging and their activity. You’ll see more unions on the street, wanting to tap into the energy of Occupy Wall Street.”"
Well no wonder the right hates Occupy.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”
- Margaret Mead
That quote popped up in my head this morning as I was thinking about the #Occupy Movement. I haven’t been able to keep up with mainstream media too much on this story, and by that, I mean MSNBC. The last time I was able to watch was in the hours before Steve Jobs’s death was announced. At that time, someone was sitting in for Chris Matthews and he said that he doubted this movement would last. His chief argument? The weather.
These aren’t people who, as children were cozy little trust-funders, assured their place in life without having so much as to lift a finger. We all know these people… the ones that continually use the phrase, “You should pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.” They neglect to either mention or, in the case of some of the most arrogant ones, realize that they had mommy and daddy hoisting them up on their platinum bootstraps onto the most elegantly and costly saddle imaginable. They tell the poor and the struggling middle class to “do more with less” while they become the poster children for gluttony and greed.
Instead, these are men and women who have already fought for every fair break they’ve ever gotten. These are men and women that have stood at job interview after job interview, waiting for a call back. These are men and women who are drawn to act, who have spawned a national and (dare I say) global movement. These aren’t people that are likely to be concerned with a little snow and they are people that are likely to know how to adapt. Why? Because they’ve had to do so all their lives.
Nearly a week ago - probably a week ago exactly, traders in Chicago taunted the protestors in their city with this:
…and my immediate thoughts were, we’ve seen arrogance like that before. Marie Antoinette famously, out of touch with her people and their living conditions, how tough a struggle it was just to feed their families, uttered the famous phrase, “Let them eat cake.”
We all know how that turned out.
That’s not a threat, to the one percent, but it is the way this tide is turning. Anytime you shrink the middle class - the comfort barrier between the upper class and the lower class - it becomes a recipe for revolution and disaster. I know the business majors may not have had a chance to read their history, but history is not just about the past. It’s about identifying patterns in sociology. You can only sustain oppulence and wealth for so long before a growing larger class in poverty will start to uprise. In our culture, that uprise is actually fueled by the very distractions the wealthy try to use to keep the poor misinformed: television shows of reality television stars who show no talent for the way they earn a living, but put writers out of work and whose shows make broadcasting corporations more money than well-scripted quality shows. The only problem is? Fewer people have the hope of attaining what the 1 percent try to distract us with, and therein lies the problem.
This movement may not change things today or tomorrow, but if I was a betting girl (if I had the money to not care to be a betting girl), my money would be on this movement lasting… until it changes the world. It’s the only hope that many people have left.