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Labor Movement Rolls Into Wall Street Occupation

Occupy Wall Street seems to be following the trajectory of grassroots organizing: a spark of protest led by younger activists, followed by the support of labor organizations.

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As sister campaigns emerge in other areas under the banner of " Occupy Together," the Wall Street actions could serve as a kind of petri dish for future protest tactics, building on the occupational groundwork laid by smaller demonstrations, such as a recent encampment at City Hall to protest budget cuts, and a Wall Street protest in May that  drew union support from 1199 SEIU and the United Federation of Teachers.

As ITT's Akito Yoshikane  reported, the lifeblood of the protests has been the young and the frustrated. But the occupation also represents swelling resentment across all sectors of society -- covering expressly the 99 percent of us who are getting screwed and shafted by corporate moguls and, more tragically, our own elected representatives.

Yet the proactive anger has been building in the labor movement far from Wall Street. An editorial by the Socialist Worker  points to protests in recent months -- by longshoremen in Washington, striking hospital workers in California, and the groundbreaking Verizon strikers -- as signs of new "fighting mood" among the rank and file:

Workers haven't yet prevailed in all of these struggles, nor will all of them win in the future. But what unites these fights is the activism and solidarity on display, despite a hostile corporate media and aggressive employers.

Labor's new sparks of resistance are proof positive that the defiant spirit of the battle in Wisconsin last winter wasn't a flash in the pan, but a sign that growing numbers of working people are rediscovering their capacity to struggle. After decades of a one-sided class war, the fightback has begun.

Whether organized labor is finally catching up to youth activists, or the young occupiers are at last rekindling an older legacy of mass resistance, the cross-fertilization of movements is underway. Don't ask the  diverse alliance to state their agenda -- the movement is organically structured, with no formal "list of demands" yet, and that's part of the fun. Not everyone came to Wall Street knowing exactly what they wanted, but everyone there today knows they've had enough, and that they're not the only ones.

 

Michelle Chen has written for ColorLines, In These Times, South China Morning Post, Clamor, INTHEFRAY.COM and her own zine, cain.

 
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