Occupy Wall Street and the Return of Worker Solidarity in America
As the global Occupy movement gets ready to celebrate its first official birthday, many will attempt to summarize and quantify its accomplishments. Some will say the protests, marches, sit-ins and arrests have achieved nothing. They’ll say that because many of the original public encampments have disappeared (many illegally forced to disperse by violent police raids) the movement was defeated.
Some will say that because there has been no formal attempt to reclaim political seats or mount an armed rebellion, Occupy Wall Street has been merely symbolic and that the wheels of corporate welfare and middle class suppression will continue.
Most of this criticism comes from those who expected the Occupy movement to solve the problems of corruption and inequality that plague our nation. Instead of providing the answer to these problems, I believe OWS illuminated their existence. The initial occupations were a ringing alarm clock for millions of us who were formerly unconscious, lulled to sleep by wealth, security and the myth of the American dream. Finally, a year after OWS began, the 99% has begun to wake up.
Solidarity, a word that’s been absent from our lexicon since FDR and the New Deal, now lingers on the lips of blue collar workers from Buffalo to Oakland. The American worker has begun to remember her value in our economic system. Groups formerly divided by the 1%’s politics, the police officer, the solider and the protester, have begun to recognize that they are all members of the 99%. Our fates connected, whether we’re the ones holding the tear gas or the ones being violated by it.
Unions, a vehicle of worker protection against corporate misconduct, have been an integral part of the Occupy movement. Regardless of uniform or pay scale, workers have begun to band together, taking to the streets to assert their rights and demand a voice in our government. A general strike on May Day 2012 saw thousands of workers participate in organized actions with local unions in hundreds of cities across the U.S. And it didn’t stop there. Students in Quebec staged a strike to protest unfair tuition hikes; mental health professionals and patients occupied community clinics closed by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel; and recently, bakery workers occupied a store in New York to protest its closure due to retaliation against the union.
As you recover from the three-day Labor Day weekend, take a moment to consider the hard fought union battles that paved the way for many privileges we now take for granted: the eight hour work day, five day work week, lunch breaks, the end of child labor and minimum wage. Next time you’re aggravated about the lies and scandals that emerge from Washington everyday, remember that YOU alone hold the keys to true change. Remember that standing in solidarity with the millions of other hard working Americans that keep this country operating is our first and most powerful form of recourse against government corruption.
We are the nurses, police officers, teachers, moms, dads, coaches, small business owners and citizens that foot the bill for the 1%’s expensive mistakes. We are the People, and our voices, united, will never be defeated.
Image via Warm Sleepy/Flickr