The Unintended Education of a Union Member

by Angel Picón
Labor unions in California must play an active role more than ever in the 2016 Presidential elections. It wasn’t long ago that unions were created because of local disputes with their employers. This year as each presidential candidate is sharing their political ideologies they shape their presidential campaigns as they travel the all over the country and their support, or lack of support of progressive issues are being highlighted at the union halls all over the country. Many of their inconsistencies are gravely evident to the union members that are now trained “BS” spotters.
According to political reports, the delegate-rich state of California may hold the key in deciding who will be the nominee of the Democratic Party. This year California has a distinct opportunity to confidently elect someone that has had the privilege of working for progressive issues; unions issues he has fought for for years. The two front Democratic candidates have participated and supported many union issues in the past. Why are California unions important this year as opposed to other presidential races? In part because the Financial Crisis in 2008 hit the state very hard with a shortfall of almost $40 billion dollars.
The Financial Crisis gave birth to the Occupy Movement thereby giving labor unions and their members an opportunity to participate in grassroots movements across the country. This movement also gives union members a place to vent their frustrations and in turn they got educated. They were involved in direct actions, they challenged the financial institutions to be accountable. They are informed union members now and they know how to connect the dots. They now have questions; they now know how we got into this mess in the first place. In short, it was greed where only the corporate financial institutions (i.e. Wall Street) won and our local economies lost -again. Union members became educated on the issues that mattered to them by directly involving themselves on the issues that affected them.
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Occupy Wall Street and Labor: The Closest of Strangers

 by  Michael Hirsch

A sign on a lower Broadway storefront window just one block south of Wall Street reads “I can’t afford a lobbyist, so I organize.” The sign, one of many put up by Occupy Wall Street activists, sits inside a cavernous street floor space the United Federation of Teachers lent gratis to OWS for storage and coordination. The UFT, like other city unions, can afford lobbyists—subsidized by its own members through voluntary contributions. Like other city unions it operates an extensive volunteer political action arm, and massaging or muscling elected officials is seen as key to improving members’ wages and working conditions. And, like other unions in a state boasting the nation’s highest concentration of union households and home to the largest number of Fortune 500 mega-corporations and public-sector-union-averse think tankers, it also organizes aggressively.

Organizing and lobbying are tactics used by the Transport Workers, Service Employees, Communications Workers, AFSCME and Unite-Here, too— key supporters of the Occupy movement nationwide.  Yet the slogan hints at outstanding contradictions between two movements that view the world –at least right now—quite differently, even as its activists are building warm relationships with each other.

What labor and Occupy share is a common enemy in corporate America. What else shared is not so clear. Much of the discussion at a recent forum on “Can the Labor Movement and Occupy Wall Street March down the Same Road,” sponsored on Jan. 27 by The Murphy Institute, a graduate labor program at City University of New York, was about  fostering dialogue and the need to see things from others’ perspectives. Certainly the plague of joblessness, growing economic inequality, environmental genocide, needless military adventures and federal and state policies that reward the financial industry even after it sunk the economy are all powerful incentives for cooperation. But substantively, in my view, very little was exchanged.

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Labor and Occupy on the Same Road?

   by Cecily McMillan

On Friday, January 27th 2012 I walked into a packed room, every seat taken with several standing, at the Murphy Institute, CUNY. For two reasons, I was taken aback at the crowd of more than 175. 1) It was 8:30 a.m; in my limited New York experience, less than 6 months, I was under the impression that New York does, contrary to popular belief, sleep—between the hours of 4 and 10 a.m. 2) The event was a forum entitled “Can the Labor Movement and Occupy Wall Street March down the Same Road?” In my OWS experience, beginning August 6th—my third day in New York, the very mention of unions generally precedes a heated argument, abruptly cut off by “Mic check!—[Mic check!]—We will—[We will]—not be—[not be]—co-opted!—[CO-OPTED!]. Twinkle fingers all around. Many (most?) at Occupy Wall Street feel that the relationship between unions and the worker is a direct parallel of that between government and the citizen—exploitative and suppressive, a carefully decorated puppet of big business. We ally with workers, we’ll take donations from unions, but an explicit “partnership”? Well that’s an OWS four-letter word.

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