Nearly a week ago at Occupy Wall Street’s camp in Lower Manhattan, the head of the movement’s labor working group announced that the protest had received support from the Transit Worker’s Union-Local 100. Today, the TWU and several other unions are joining the protesters for what could be the largest march since the movement began.
Check out a live stream of the march below.
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At the TWU announcement, which took place during the evening gathering known as the General Assembly, a cheer erupted from the crowd. Since the protesters first occupied Zuccotti Park on Sept. 17, they have had visitors ranging from Michael Moore (greeted warmly) to Russell Simmons (greeted warmly and with cheers) to Rep. Charlie Rangel (booed off the stage). But the announcement that labor unions would stand in solidarity with the protesters brought a palpable excitement that seemed bigger than simply thankfulness for support.
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Labor unions have long been the mainstream, established arm of the progressive movement, with a deep history in Democratic politics. While many protesters have said they don’t want the Occupy Wall Street movement to be hijacked by politics, the unions also provide a potential stable financial partner, and most importantly, numbers. Union rolls are deep, and many have disciplined organizing capabilities that can ensure people will be at a planned protest or march.
But beyond organizational support to help rally their cause, many protesters say they ideologically agree with union stances on fair wages and employee benefits. Long before the announcement of partnerships with major labor unions, protesters from Occupy Wall Street marched in solidarity with the City University of New York teachers’ union.
Patrick Bruner, a protester who has become the press secretary for the Occupy Wall Street movement, said today’s march is planned as the biggest one since the movement began. The protesters have a permit, something they have eschewed or failed to secure in the past, and the presence of labor unions will be crucial to the march’s success and the continuation of their protest. “I’m sure union brothers and sisters will stand with us,” Bruner says. “We believe that the American dream can live again. We’ve been gaining momentum and this is another step in the right direction.”