Urgency and Calm in the Wall Street Protests
On October 21, I joined with more than 2,000 union brothers and sisters in a march organized by the Verizon workers of Communications Workers Local 1101 down to Zuccotti/Liberty Park, and from there to a Verizon store on Wall Street, where we rallied. Unions represented along with PSC-CUNY were the UAW, the Teamsters, and AFSCME.
Those who’ve been down to Liberty Park and taken part in the Occupy Wall Street movement know that one of its greatest breakthroughs is getting working people talking about economics and politics. Wear a provocative t-shirt, or carry a sign with a compelling fact or gripping slogan, and you’ll have dozens of people stopping to ask you questions or to add to what you’ve brought to say. It’s a remarkable development in our culture, and only good things will come from it.
One of the big topics that Friday night at the park was the role of organized labor in the Occupy Wall Street movement. For example, several of the Verizon workers I was with expressed regret that it took so long for their union local to get involved, by which they meant two or three weeks. And that’s the real essence of this movement: a rare combination of absolute urgency and calm, rational dialogue about what we should do next.
Bronx Community College
When Mayor Bloomberg announced plans to evict the Occupy Wall Street protesters from Liberty Park on the morning of October 14, the call went out from many unions and community groups to come stand with the occupiers in solidarity against the eviction. My wife and I dutifully showed up at 5:45 am.
As I wandered around looking for other PSCers to hang out with, I chatted with a great many other folks: people from other unions like CWA, TWU, SEIU, various progressives and of course the occupiers.
I was astounded at the respect that my little old PSC-CUNY cap drew. “Ooohhh, you’re PSC!” “PSC… you guys were supporting this first!” “PSC, thanks for all your support!” I’m just paraphrasing, inadequately. It blew me away.
Thanks to the tireless work of our union’s leaders and members, the PSC has developed some helluva reputation among union and community activists in NYC. It’s really an institutional thing.
Of course, this was just a side story in that morning’s amazing events. Thousands of people from all over the city came together to defend the right to protest, and we won. Our union was just one part of that – but it made me proud to be a part of the PSC.