Occupy Wall Street Shines a Spotlight on the Super-Rich

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For two months, Occupy Wall Street (OWS) has resonated with young people across the globe because of the loose-knit movement’s simple, undeniable message:

For the last 30 years, the top 1% of society has stacked the deck against the 99%, and are making out like bandits while the rest of us lose our homes, our jobs, our healthcare, our pensions – even our lives!

“The banks got bailed out,” OWS members chant, “and the people got sold out.”

Many Local 1700 members agree with that message, and have participated in Occupy actions from New York and Atlanta to Los Angeles. After all, no one knows better than Greyhound workers how corporate greed benefits the suits in the corner office, but everyone else loses ground.

Other members, however, have trouble identifying with the young campers in tent cities they see on TV. Some union brothers and sisters are openly hostile to OWS. They question if the protesters are serious or just partying. What are their goals? Do they have some secret agenda?

All those points of view came together Nov. 14 at the Charter City meeting in New York City. I invited a few “Occupiers” to discuss OWS with us and, judging by the larger than usual attendance and more spirited than usual discussion, the subject struck a chord.

Some members wanted to know why Local 1700 should be concerned about Occupy Wall Street when we have so many issues to resolve with Greyhound. This is an ongoing debate in the union movement: Should we stick to negotiating and enforcing contracts, or also tackle larger social and economic issues?

The Occupy representatives responded that Local 1700 members’ daily scrapes with Greyhound are part of the larger, ongoing struggle between working people in general

and the tiny super-rich minority who control the world’s economy, politics and media. We won’t make much progress on either fight without progress on the other.

American unions have a proud tradition of fighting for social and economic justice, especially during times of crisis. And when the public supports us, we have made great advances, including Social Security and Medicare. The secret to success is to build coalitions with people and groups who share our interests, like the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and other religious leaders we linked arms with in the fight for civil rights legislation.

Several Local 1700 members attending the NYC meeting sat and listened, but didn’t participate in the lively debate. Afterwards, they asked additional questions and found out more about getting involved in coming OWS actions. That’s great because Occupy is creating new opportunities to put working people’s issues back into the national debate.

Occupy Wall Street is a diverse, committed, non-partisan group of concerned citizens who came together to demand a fair chance to earn a livelihood and live free. The labor movement agrees with OWS that Wall Street – the symbol of global wealth – must be held accountable for the growing divide between “the 1%” and “the 99%” in our society.

Together, we can put the 1% who plundered our economy on notice that the 99% of us who create the world’s wealth are finally getting together to demand change.