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Labor's Edge: Views from the California Labor Movement

Labor Joins Occupy Oakland’s Historic Day of Action

by Rebecca Greenberg Band, California Labor Federation

The Occupy Oakland Day of Action wasn’t your typical Occupy event. As many as 10,000 people or more participated in what is reported to have been the biggest protest in the East Bay since the Vietnam War. It was peaceful, it was inspiring, it was inclusive, it was dynamic, it was diverse, and it was historic. And we’re proud to have been a part of it.

What’s great about the Occupy Day of Action is that it was designed so that individuals and unions could participate in their own unique ways. Many kicked off the day of action by hosting a variety of different actions at their worksites. During the noon hour, union members were involved in at least half a dozen marches and actions going on in downtown Oakland, including the massive march to the big Wall Street banks, a young children’s brigade, a college student march, and an action at a Mercedes Benz dealership where the management is trying to impose severe cutbacks on its union workers.

Oakland Education Association’s Steve Neat told The Associated Press:

All of these different problems—foreclosures, schools closing, attacks on labor unions—they all basically stem from the fact that the top 1 percent and corporations are never satisfied to just make profit. Their profits need to go up and up every year. It’s sort of a realization that a lot of people are having that we’ve all been fighting our own issues, but really, it’s all related, it’s all the same issue.

The core tenets of the Occupy movement – economic fairness, protection from predatory big banks, funding for vital public services and education, and an economy that works for all of us, and not just the richest 1% -- are the same tenets that are at the very core of the Labor Movement. We’ve been fighting for years to draw attention to the growing inequality caused by excessive greed among those at the top, and now, finally, with a major boost from the growing Occupy movement, the narrative about the unfair nature of our economy is changing. It’s a message that resonates with the vast majority of Americans, and it’s only gaining popularity – according to a recent CNN poll, supporters of Occupy Wall Street’s principles now outnumber opponents by nearly 15 percentage points. It’s no wonder the movement continues to gain steam across the country, and Occupy Oakland is no exception.

As the Day of Action moved into the afternoon, the crowd continued to swell, as more and more union members and other Occupy supporters came downtown to join the festivities. And it was indeed an incredibly festive atmosphere; live music, dancing, singing and laughter could be heard and seen from all over. The diversity of the crowd was remarkable, even in a city as diverse as Oakland. Students chatted with union retirees, young professionals marched side-by-side with unemployed workers, working parents brought their children, and a handful of activists dressed in black joined the daily meditation circle. People from all walks of life came together in one of the most unique, and almost utopic, gathering that this blogger has ever been a part of. After last week’s raid on the encampment, it was thrilling to once again see Occupy Oakland thriving.

Josie Camacho of the Alameda Labor Council:

It’s a proud moment for this city. It’s so festive, there an incredible energy out here, and the ethnic ‘rainbow’ of this city is well represented. It’s an amazing blend of people, and it really makes you feel good and safe. We’re so proud to be a part of this chapter in history and this monumental occasion. We are the 99%!

In the evening, The Alameda Labor Council and local unions, including Teamsters, UFCW, IFPTE 21, SEIU 1021, IBEW 595 and UNITE HERE 2850, as well as the California Labor Federation, donated food for a cook-out, and union volunteers served up delicious hot dogs, veggie burgers, rice, beans and cupcakes for more than 3,000 Occupy supporters for the entire evening.

The day ended with a massive march to the Port of Oakland, where the ranks continued to swell as thousands flooded the streets and poured into the Oakland’s famous port. The large cranes provided a unique backdrop as people danced and played music well past sundown.

International Longshore and Warehouse Union spokesman Craig Merrilees:

The ILWU and other unions are supporting the concerns raised by Occupy Oakland and the Occupy movement to speak up for the 99 percent and against the corporate greed that is wrecking America.

Click here for more photos from the Day of Action.

 

Check out some of the media coverage:

San Francisco Chronicle

Associated Press (video)

Rachel Maddow Show (video)

LA Times

KTVU Channel 2

Posted on 11/03/2011Permalink

More posts by Rebecca Band

Reader Discussion

I just want to thank all of my union sisters and brothers who participated and swelled the ranks of this very important day of protest.

I am a proud Teamsters member.

at 3:53 pm on Fri, Nov 4, 2011Posted by Susan Bayer

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