The Occupy Wall Street protests seem set to get much bigger in the coming days. Yesterday, 1199SEIU, the health-care workers’ union with over 200,000 members in New York/Long Island, volunteered to help feed the protesters in Zuccotti Park and to send nurses for first aid needs. The Transport Workers Union Local 100, representing the 38,000 MTA workers have also pledged their support, including marching with the protesters on Wednesday.
With union support comes $$$, some ancillary organizational structure the leaderless movement may come to really need, and perhaps most importantly, more bodies.
My sense of it is that the movement is now past the tipping point and will rapidly start to gain critical mass. One of the main reasons, as we all know, that the mainstream media was so slow to cover the OWS protests is because it was “just a bunch of hippies.” There could have been half a million of them and it would have merited the same response: dismissal. With the union support, the nascent movement is starting to look much more ready for prime time, as the Wall Street Journal reports:
“The premise of the protest, we’re in complete agreement with,” said TWU Local 100 President John Samuelsen. “It’s about fair share and it’s about the claim that everybody needs to share a bit of the burden of this terrible economy.”
The transport workers, 1199 and other labor groups plan to join the protesters for a Wednesday march from City Hall to Zuccotti Park, where the protesters have camped since Sept. 17.
Also Monday, lawyers for TWU Local 100 sought a temporary restraining order in federal court to prevent the police from commandeering buses operated by its members to ferry protesters who had been arrested.
Police took over at least three buses Saturday to transport some of the 700 people who were arrested after a march veered onto the roadway of the Brooklyn Bridge, according to the union and the MTA.
“Our bus operators are working-class people who are raising children in New York City and by and large they support the protest,” said Mr. Samuelsen, the TWU president. “They’re not going to press our members into service and thrust them onto the wrong side of this protest without a fight from our union.”
Read that last paragraph again and ponder the implications.
The genius of this particular movement, I think, more than any other element was the “we’re not leaving, come and join us if you feel the same way we do” factor. Had the Occupy Wall Street protests been set for a single day and if attendance was underwhelming, that would have been that. When the union members begin to noticeably show up, the composition of the movement is going to change, and the media coverage will inevitably change also, sending a primarily visual message that will show more people of color, the participation of Americans who are past the age of 30, and more sorts of “regular” people in the images they transmit. When the pilots union members showed up in their uniforms, that was such a powerful message I thought. (I mean no disrespect for “hippies” btw. The young people in Zuccotti Park are heroes to me).
From that same article from the Wall Street Journal, we’re introduced to Tom Dematteis, a 39-year-old Watertown, CT-based pizzeria owner, a Navy veteran and a single father of three children, who visited the protest on Monday morning.
“America has been silenced for too long,” he said. “This is becoming a melting pot for all issues. I don’t protest very often, this is big enough.”
Joining Mr. Dematteis on Monday was a Connecticut teacher named Jim who said he wouldn’t give his last name because he was skipping work to be there. He, too, didn’t plan to camp out because he had to be back at school on Tuesday.
But he said he has watched several family members lose their homes to foreclosure and felt a need to show up in person after following the protest movement in the media.
“These are real-life things that happen to people I know,” he said. “We have to do something. I think the whole country is feeling helpless right now. You don’t have to necessarily stay in the park to show your solidarity.”
Now, that’s true, but if you CAN show up, you should show up. If a single dad with three kids and a business to run can drive a couple of hours to be there, if you work in Manhattan, at the very least go to Zucotti Park to eat your lunch! And maybe take some food for the troops if you can afford to.
And to all of the assholes on Facebook whining about how the streets in lower Manhattan are all clogged up with “hippies,”—go fuck yourselves. That is some of the lamest nonsense I’ve ever heard and yes I am talking to YOU, Mr. and Mrs. Old Skool Punk Rockers turned griping, bitter Tribeca loft-dwelling jerk-offs…