Tag Archive: labor movement


Things I read on Occupy Wall Street – mostly about how who is really occupying Wall Street is different than how the “mainstream” media is portraying it, and how labor and the occupiers are forging bonds:

Ezra Klein @ Wonkblog: The 99% and 1%: Not so different, after all

This helps to make the point, I think, that though the Occupy Wall Street folks are right that Wall Street has done a lot of damage to the economy and the top 1 percent have developed a curious ability to prosper while most Americans fall behind, in the long run, almost everyone’s interests are aligned here. Banks and corporations might be able to prosper in a bad economy for a couple of years, but they can’t do it for very long. Indeed, it seems like time might already be running out for Wall Street.

 

Greg Sargent @ The Plum Line: What if working class Americans actually like Occupy Wall Street?

The movement is still very young, and it’s very hard to gauge support for it. But one labor official shares with me a very interesting data point: Working America, the affiliate of the AFL-CIO that organizes workers from non-union workplaces, has signed up approximately 25,000 new recruits in the last week alone, thanks largely to the high visibility of the protests.

Karen Nussbaum, the executive director of Working America, tells me that this actually dwarfs their most successful recruiting during the Wisconsin protests. “In so many ways, Wisconsin was a preview of what we’re now seeing,” Nussbaum says. “We thought it was big when we got 20,000 members in a month during the Wisconsin protests. This shows how much bigger this is.”

 

Harold Meyerson @ The American Prospect: How the Times Have Changed, Part 386

On Wednesday afternoon, within a few minutes of one another, many of America’s leading unions—the Service Employees, the Teamsters, the American Federation of Teachers—not to mention labor’s omnibus federation, the AFL-CIO—all released endorsements of Occupy Wall Street and its ongoing demonstrations in New York’s (and the world’s) financial center. Nothing surprising here—other individual unions and numerous local unions had already released statements of support for OSW, and the AFL-CIO itself has held several demonstrations on Wall Street since the financial collapse of 2008.

But for geezers like me, who came out of the student left of the ‘60s that found itself in various pitched battles with organized labor, the difference between then and now couldn’t be greater….

Laura Clawson @ Daily Kos: Occupy Wall Street spurs support for unions among the working class

Beltway wisdom would have it that Occupy Wall Street protesters are pierced, pot-smoking hippies reviled by heartland Americans. That view hasn’t been supported by polling; several polls have found positive favorability for Occupy Wall Street, and when PPP polled the issue for Daily Kos, people earning less than $50,000 had a net positive view of the protests, as did people earning more than $100,000.

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Unions.

I had the great privilege, yesterday and today, of tattooing the logo for the United Steel Workers on a couple of very active union organizers. 

It was a simple tattoo, but I can’t tell you how proud I was to do this for these hard-working union members.  It made me feel, somehow, part of the resurgence that has arisen since the Wisconsin debates about the right of workers to organize, to lobby for their own worth and their own needs as workers.

I’d never really thought about my own relationship to union families, until, reflecting on the protests against the curtailing of worker’s rights in by Gov. Walker in Wisconsin, I asked my mother if Washington state had a union for teachers back when my dad was teaching in the public schools.

My mom, quite frankly, was a little hazy on the concept.  She told me that they’d had something – she wasn’t exactly sure if it was a union – but in any case, there’d been some sort of organization to lobby for teachers wages and benefits and working conditions, and yes, my dad (and probably my mom as well, the one year she taught 4th grade in the public schools) was a part of it.  But it was no memorable organization for my mother; it existed, it advanced the rights of teachers, it worked to some degree, but it made little lasting impression on her, outside of the basics.

I have never been a member of any kind of union, but I still feel the benefits of unions in my life as a working person.

I do not work in an industry which is likely to EVER unionize. The old adage, “like herding cats” probably was never so applicable as in the case of trying to bring tattoo artists together.

But still, I feel those benefits.  I may work more than a 40-hour work week on a very regular basis, but where did that 40 hour work-week come from?  The unions. And it’s my choice to bust past that 40 hours, not mandated by my employer.

I may forego a normal Saturday-Sunday weekend (so that I can make more money, quite frankly) in favor of taking my days off on Wednesday and Thursday, but my “right” to two days off (days I usually do bookkeeping, business-oriented shopping, and artwork for tattoo projects), and in fact my very sense of having anything like reliable “days off” comes from the Unions.

I may not have health care, or retirement/pension benefits, or any kind of bonus structure, but my knowledge of those benefits, and my educated decision to forego them in my current profession stems directly from my knowledge that these are standard, accepted benefits, baselines against which I measure my own earnings, and that knowledge is based in the history of Unions securing those rights for workers in major industries.

I’m not naïve to the corruption within some unions. I’m not unaware of how some unions, at some times, did more for their leadership, and less for the workers. But overall, unions do more or less what they are supposed to do: lobby for good working conditions, good pay, and reasonable expectations.

And so it is, without direct membership or benefit from the efforts of a labor union, I still thank them.

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