Occupy’s Lockout: Sotheby’s Struggle Enters Tenth Month

by Josh Eidelson

Sotheby’s New York auction house made international headlines last week, selling Edvard Much’s painting “The Scream” for a record $119.9 million. But few stories mentioned what was happening outside the auction: picketing by 150 artists, activists, and locked-out art handlers.

“Tonight, the irony persists,” said Sotheby’s worker Julian Tysh. “Sotheby’s is selling a copy of the scream – an artful interpretation of human anguish and suffering – and they’re going to profit tremendously tonight, while at the same time they continue to create anguish and suffering among their own workforce.”

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How “Occupy Our Homes” Can Win

by Amy Dean

An interview with anti-eviction organizer Steve Meacham of City Life/Vida Urbana in Boston

An Occupy Real Estate march in East New York protests bank foreclosures and encourages people to occupy empty buildings on December 6, 2011. (Photo: Brennan Cavanaugh)

Since most of the original Occupy encampments were evicted by wintertime, the question now is, what’s next for activists? One of the most popular suggestions is “Occupy Our Homes,” a campaign in which occupiers around the country would do actions at foreclosed houses or at bailed-out banks that are throwing people out of their homes. A national day of action on December 6 focused on this approach and featured home occupations or solidarity marches in 25 cities, including New York and Chicago.

Occupy Our Homes has three particularly good instincts.

First, it takes the general critique of inequality that the movement has been voicing – something often expressed in abstract charts and tables – and makes the issue concrete.

Since so many people in America are dealing with insecurity about their homes, the shift to doing foreclosure prevention and anti-eviction actions allows new groups of people  with a clear sense of their own connection to the struggle to engage with the Occupy movement. Social movements at their best are about helping people take their individual troubles and link them to a public problem and shifting the focus from trying to personally cope to taking collective action.

Second, the campaign connects the Occupy movement with organizing that has been going on for years. Community-based groups have been resisting foreclosures and evictions at least since the bursting of the housing bubble in 2008, if not before. Bringing the energy of Occupy to bear affords these campaigns more visibility and helps scale up local struggles, which can see themselves as part of a national movement.

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What Occupy Taught the Unions

By Arun Gupta

SEIU and others are embracing the movement that has succeeded as they have faded.

 Unions and Occupy: who's leading who?

Unions and Occupy: who’s leading whom?

Unions are in a death spiral. Private sector unionism has all but vanished, accounting for a measly 6.9 percent of the workforce. Public sector workers are being hammered by government cutbacks and hostile media that blame teachers, nurses and firefighters for budget crises. To counter this trend organized labor banked on creating more hospitable organizing conditions by contributing hundreds of millions of dollars to the Democratic Party the last two election cycles. In return Obama abandoned the Employee Free Choice Act, which would have made union campaigns marginally easier, failed to push for an increase in the minimum wage, and installed an education secretary who attacks teachers and public education.

The Obama administration’s dismal record on labor issues has been compounded by the rise of the Tea Party movement, which portrays unions as public enemy No. 1, and the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which opened the political floodgates to corporate money. By last year, organized labor realized that its days were numbered unless it took a different approach.

So it went back to basics. Across the country unions threw resources into community organizing, aiming to build a broad-based constituency outside of the workplace for progressive politics. In cities like Chicago, Philadelphia and Portland, Ore., newly formed community groups found ready support for organizing around issues of economic justice, but they were stymied by a national debate dominated by voices blaming government spending for an economic crisis caused by Wall Street.

Occupy Wall Street changed that. It flipped the debate from austerity to inequality, uncorked a wellspring of creative energy and started taking creative risks that unions typically shun. Within weeks unions adopted the 99 percent versus the 1 percent and started organizing actions under the Occupy banner. One labor leader said “the Occupy movement has changed unions’” messaging and ability to mobilize members. Union-affiliated organizers around the country say it has helped workers win better contracts and bolstered labor reformers.

While union organizers stress the importance of the movement’s autonomy, they are also joining in, providing advice, experience, supplies and access to money and space. Many believe, as one Chicago labor activist put it, that “Occupy is too big to fail.” In fact, the Occupy movement is in the vanguard of labor, enticing workers into the streets, making them negotiate harder and think bigger.
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“Can the Labor Movement and Occupy Wall Street March down the Same Road?”

New York City – Jan. 27 Murphy Institute, CUNY, 25 W. 43 rd St. 18th Floor, New York Friday, January 27, 2012 — 8:30am until 10:30am

Occupy Wall Street’s singular achievement has been to inject issues of concentrated wealth, inequality, and the threat to democracy into the heart of national debate, something the labor movement has tried but largely failed to do for many years. Occupy Wall Street continues to generate attention across the country. While unions were one of its earliest supporters, and share some of its ideals, the two movements are also markedly different.

Unlike unions, Occupy Wall Street is inherently anti-capitalist. It also makes a point of not having a set of demands or a defined leadership, while trade unions are highly structured representative bodies that pay meticulous attention to formulating specific programs and demands. How do the two movements view each other? What has been their working relationship so far? How do OWS and unions see organizing? Are their strategies and tactics compatible? What can OWS gain from the involvement of organized labor, and vice versa?

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Itochu Office in San Francisco Occupied to support ILWU at Longview Port

by Paul Garver

View ahd share this Labor Video Project production of protestors occupying the San Francisco offices of Itochu. Itochu is a Japanese oilseed company part of EGT, the company that is trying to break ILWU Local 21 in the port of Longview, WA.  We are reposting the video as part of our Labor and Occupy series.