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Horizontal Meets Vertical: 3 Ways Occupy, Community Groups and Unions Can Work Together to Change Society

To build this movement, Occupy needs to connect with tens of millions of people who are watching the unfolding battle but are not yet involved.

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Starting with GE on April 25 in Detroit and moving on to Wells Fargo, Bank of America and dozens of other corporations in May and June, tens of thousands of people from Occupy, community organizations, unions and environmental groups will show up at the annual shareholder meetings of major corporations. Some people will be on the inside with proxies, and others will be massed in the streets, all delivering the message that it is no longer acceptable for giant, unaccountable corporations to decide the political and economic fate of the country.

Emerging movements are complicated, exciting, messy, confusing and wonderful things to be a part of. When the passion, fearlessness and vision of Occupy intersects with the resources and membership of community groups and unions, we’ll find the sweet spot that makes it possible to force the richest to negotiate with the rest of us. It is where these two worlds meet—horizontal and vertical—united around common issues and enemies, that we create the potential to start winning together.

Stephen Lerner serves on the Service Employees International Union’s International Executive Board and is the architect of the Justice for Janitors campaign.

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