On the weekend of October 15, there were 930 demonstrations in 80 countries around the world. All were inspired by "Occupy Wall Street." There are occupations downtown in Ft Worth and Dallas that hold marches, pickets, and other actions against bankers, speculators and corporate greed. The national AFL-CIO was one of the first organizations to endorse this new movement, and many internationals have come along since then. I read President Richard Trumka's supportive statement at the kickoff event in Dallas on October 6th. I had to stop after every sentence for the applause!
And yet, not a lot of North Texas unionists have participated. It's not because the activities weren't legal and peaceful. It's not because the "occupiers" aren't friendly to labor, because they are. Could it be that union members are put off by the apparent "everything goes" attitude that the marchers have? Could it be that there are too many demands, too many slogans, and too many different kinds of people demonstrating?
There are two good ways to overcome those problems and put union members on the front lines of the fight for human dignity, where they belong. One of them is to invite occupiers to our union meetings and let our members see them firsthand. It might be a little risky, because we don't know what they might say, but isn't this a time when we're going to have to take a few risks? President Romeo Munoz of UAW 848 let "Rachel," a young occupier speak for a few minutes at our October 16 meeting, and it worked out great!
The other good way to help our members participate is to form contingents within the larger marches that are happening every Saturday. If our members stay behind their own union banner, then no one can accuse them of endorsing all the many causes espoused in a peoples' march. If they don't want to free Palestine, provide abortions, or advocate gay marriage, they don't have to. All they have to do is march behind their own banner and carry their own signs.
The AFL-CIO is right to endorse this important worldwide movement, local union activists are right to work on it, and our members will be right when they participate. We just need to find ways to make it easier for them!
[orginally written for the Union Craftsman]
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