100,000 train to “take back the nation” from the 1%

More than 100,000 union members and activists from community groups are in “99% spring training sessions” all over the country this week gearing up, they say, to take back the nation from the 1%.

There first big mobilization is set for Tax Day, April 17.

On that day people will demonstrate all over America demanding that the 1% and the corporations pay their fair share. “The wealthiest Americans, like Mitt Romney, pay a far lower share of their income in taxes than do average working people, and some multibillion-dollar corporations don’t pay a cent,” said AFL-CIO spokesperson Mike Hall.

Under the Romney-backed House Republican budget, millionaires and corporations would get even more tax breaks. This while programs and services for working families, military service personnel, students, veterans, seniors and the poor would be slashed and thousands of additional workers laid off.

According to the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, people earning more than $1 million a year would receive $265,000 apiece in new tax cuts on top of the $129,000 they would receive from the budget’s extension of the Bush tax cuts.

Every day this week the coalition of progressive groups including many branches of Occupy Wall Street, MoveOn.org, the United Auto Workers, the Communications Workers of America, Greenpeace, Rebuild the American Dream and others are hosting over 900 training sessions aiming to educate 100,000 participants in direct-action protest techniques.

The coalition says the teach-ins are part of what it is calling the 99 Percent Spring. Some 50,000 are receiving training in person while another 50,000 are being trained online.

In their search to accentuate differences among coalition participants, some in the media have posed the “direct action” techniques of the Occupy movement against what they describe as the more institutional petition campaigns and electoral activity carried out by some of the other members of the coalition.

The reality, of course, is that Occupy does not hold a monopoly on mass action. Unions, for example, may be heavily involved in electoral recall efforts in Wisconsin but it was the union-led physical occupation of the Capitol in Madison that pre-dated the birth of the Occupy movement in New York later that year in September.

Coalition members see the trainings going on now as a way of fostering unity among all the progressive groups participating and a way of building upon the Wisconsin demonstrations led by Labor, the national Internet campaigns led by MoveOn.org and the Occupy movements all across the country.

Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America, said the labor movement is clearly in support of the mass action approaches taken by Occupy Wall Street. Pointing to Wisconsin, he said: “We need direct action and our members know it.”

One of the things covered in the training sessions is the use of civil disobedience techniques and how to handle arrests. Training sessions last a full day and are broken down into three basics areas: discussion of big economic issues such as income inequality and workers’ rights, a section where participants tell their stories of struggle against economic injustice and a section on the actual techniques involved with nonviolent direct action and civil disobedience.

The initial plan, according to organizers, is to come up with dramatic actions for Tax Day on April 17 and for shareholder meetings later in the month at the offices of major corporations. Organizers say that at the Tax Day demonstrations they will shine a light on both tax loopholes and attacks on workers rights.

Coca Cola and Bank of America will be among the corporations singled out later this month for actions at their shareholders meetings. The idea, organizers say, is to build a “corporate accountability movement.”

Some “all or nothing” ideologues have urged Occupy to “be on guard” against co-opting by some of the other progressive groups in the coalition. Most supporters of all the groups, however, seem to see the importance of preserving unity.

Tim Franzen, organizer for Occupy Atlanta, told the Huffington Post yesterday that the coalition is a boost to the Occupy movement. “They have an audience that hasn’t come out to the park before. This is going to bring a whole new segment of folks that have been on the sidelines.”

Justin Rubin, executive director of MoveOn, said, “The Occupy movement has been amazing and transformative. MoveOn members around the country have worked hard to support it, and it is one of the things that inspired the 99% Spring. It’s great that some Occupiers are participating in the 99 % Spring and of course many will not – we know and respect that Occupy is a diverse movement with lots of different people with lots of different views.”

Photo: Lat year’s Philadelphia tax day rally April 18, 2011. Ben Sears/PW 



John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward, as a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee, and as an activist in the union's campaign to win public support for Wal-Mart workers. In the 1970s and '80s he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.