Occupy, unions and allies: “We refuse to be evicted”

The “one percent” is learning big time today that it cannot evict a nationwide grassroots movement.

After a week of clearing Occupy Wall Street protesters out of city parks and with the “Super Committee” in Washington threatening to slash Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, the nation errupted today in coast-to-coast demonstrations.

The labor-backed “Day of Action” demonstrators carried their message into the halls of the U.S. Senate in the nation’s capital this morning, staging a rally against any Super Committee deal that cuts retirement security or fails to create government jobs.

Actions in New York began at daybreak outside City Hall and the New York Stock Exchange with thousands gathering there, at Zuccotti Park, the site from which protesters were  evicted two days ago, and at other locations in the city. Demonstrations will continue in New York until well after sunset.

On this the second day after the crackdown on Occupy Wall Street in New York, the labor movement and its allies are showing up at rallies all over the country in a “Day of Action” that shines the spotlight on the economic disaster facing the country’s 99 percent. Demonstrators in the labor-backed actions are calling attention to everything from broken bridges and crumbling schools to the historic levels of unemployment.

“The one percent are not seeing a people who are defeated today but an electrified and unbeatable movement,” said Dan Coffman, president of Local 21 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union in Washington State. Coffman and a dozen “Women of the Waterfront” were arrested in September for sitting down on the railroad tracks in Longview, Washington. Workers tried to prevent a train from unloading grain at the EGT terminal in Longview because the company reneged on contractual obligations to hire union members.

Coffman said there is a “direct connection between evicting Occupy Wall Street demonstrators and the attacks on unions. Just for fighting for our jobs and exercising our civil rights our union members have faced police attacks and arrests. The police, whose salaries are paid by our members have, in effect, been used as a private security force for the grain companies on the docks.”

Speaking on the phone from his union hall which is festooned with a banner, “Defend the Picket Line, Defend Free Speech,” Coffman said, “I will be in Oakland all day Thursday fighting for our union jobs and for the rights of our members and the rights of all Americans to the exercise of free speech.”

Civil rights and legal groups, including the National Lawyers Guild and the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, have filed papers demanding any information, that the Department of Justice and the intelligence agencies have, relating to a possible nationwide or coordinated crackdown on Occupy Wall Street. They say that the almost-simultaneous crackdowns in cities across the country are cause for concern.

Coffman said “the one percent are really worried these days about people uniting to win economic justice.” He said that both the rapid spread of Occupy Wall Street demonstrations across the country and the increasing militancy of union workers determined to defend their jobs are easily explained,

“Poverty in the United States is higher than it has been in over 50 years. Maritime companies, like the big banks and other big corporations, want to cut good paying jobs. It’s a threat not just to all waterfront workers but to all workers across the country,” he said.”

Today’s national demonstrations follow a big Election Day victory for workers in Ohio last week where, by an almost 30 point margin, voters repealed an anti-labor law that killed collective bargaining rights for public workers.

Today also marks the two-month anniversary of the beginning of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations which began just six months after the February and March occupations of the Wisconsin capitol. The Wisconsin actions included marches of well over 100,000 protesting Republican attacks on union rights and galvanized workers around the country for future protests, including Occupy Wall Street.

Photo: Occupy Wall Street demonstrators march through the streets of the New York City financial district, Nov. 17, as part of national day of mass action. (Mary Altaffer/AP)



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.