Labor and community stand behind Occupy San Jose

SAN JOSE, Calif. – Downtown San Jose rang with activists’ chants and the honking horns of supportive motorists Oct. 9, as a labor-community coalition rallied in support of Occupy San Jose. Activists camped out in front of City Hall to call attention to the vast inequities plaguing the city, the state, and the country.

The South Bay Labor Council and Working Partnerships, a grassroots labor support organization, helped organize the rally, which demanded that the rich and the corporations pay their fair share of taxes. Participants proudly declared, “We are the 99!” – referring to the 99% of Americans who do the work while 1% own the lion’s share of the wealth.

Members of the California Federation of Teachers (AFT), California Nurses Association, AFSCME, SEIU, CWA and ATU joined the demonstration, together with students and community members from a variety of organizations.

The crowd of some 200 listened attentively as Wanda Allen, a community activist with Working Partnerships, told a typical story: laid off three times and then running out her unemployment benefits. She didn’t know where to turn until she discovered that she could fight back as an activist together with labor and community organizations. Other speakers had similar tales.

The need for unity of all the “99%” was another constant refrain: Veronica from SEIU said to cheers, “I’m here not only because I’m a union member but also one of the 99% – we are one!” One speaker told of a recent attempted eviction from a foreclosed house that was blocked by a crowd of 100 neighbors. Some recalled that many similar incidents in which communities stopped evictions took place during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

The support of local political leaders also cheered the crowd; current city councilperson Ash Kaira and former councilperson Forrest Williams both were there to show their support for Occupy San Jose.

After the rally, a spirited march wound its way through downtown, accompanied by the blaring horns of drivers passing by and showing their support. One woman wore a sign that summed up the fighting mood: “Who am I, 99%? Underemployed and overangry!”

Photo: Henry Millstein/PW



Henry Millstein
Henry Millstein

Hank Millstein is a long-time peace and labor activist. He's a fiction writer and journalist and a member of the National Writers Union.