Opulent Sothebys' Appalling Treatment of Its Workers Is a Perfect Symbol of the Out of Touch 1%
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Observing and standing in the picket line was thought provoking and affirming for me, even in the midst of this busy protest season.
The way the police protected the uber-moneyed patrons and hassled the picketers made me wonder, yet again, who these public servants are here to serve.
The fact that art, which is meant to be democratic, has become so exclusive was also indicative of what has happened to our society. Money going into art isn't bad. But my guess is that many of these ultra-wealthy buyers are purchasing art as status symbols when they could be patronizing upcoming or struggling artists or arts programs for schools, to produce the next generation. And museums, which are meant to serve the public, should put their weight behind the unions' push for negotiations and refuse to participate in scab auctions. But instead, heads were bowed and people entered the building to go on with their elite business as usual.
There were similar observations to be made in the street: the temporary security workers who had to cross their brothers' and sisters' picket line vividly showed the way capitalism pits the working class against each other. Walking over to York Avenue while well-clad women walked their purebred dogs and two other women scrounged through recycling for deposit bottles, I saw another perfect illustration of the gaping class disparity in our nation.
But there was hope present, too. When I was a teenager, I spent one summer working on an anti-sweatshop campaign in New York. It seemed like back then, at the height of the student-labor alliance, there was a protest like this nearly every day, a rowdy but focused group of young people on call at each one to stand by workers who had been mistreated.
As I saw signs declaring solidarity between students, Occupy Wall Street and unionized workers, I realized that the occupation has brought that old alliance back into plain view, and brought it further forward.
So while the drums and whistles were subdued at night's end and the outlandish purchases made without much incident, the outrage was still there, and growing. And a new partnership was further cemented.
I walked back and forth snapping photos at the height of the protest, and the first Teamster I'd talked to tapped me on the shoulder: "They came!" he said.
All pictures by Sarah Seltzer. Below are more pictures from the action, in slideshow form (click the box in the bottom right-hand corner to pop them out).
Sarah Seltzer is an associate editor at AlterNet, a staff writer at RH Reality Check and a freelance writer based in New York City. Her work has been published in Jezebel.com and on the websites of the Nation, the Christian Science Monitor and the Wall Street Journal. Find her at sarahmseltzer.com.