Unions and Occupy continue to build their wary alliance

Occupy’s willingness to engage with, support, and be supported by establishment forces such as trade unions has shed some light on its dynamic persona.

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When the Adbusters-inspired Occupy Wall Street campaign kicked off seven months ago in New York City, no one could have expected it to trigger the creation of 700 similar protest camps around the world.

Occupy-Wall-Street-protests-New-York-September-19-2009Indeed, the very fact it became a ‘movement’ has left sociologists scratching their heads; some have called it a populist movement of the left while others have firmly embedded it within new social movement theory.

However, with the movement now in its second phase, its real identity is becoming more apparent. The Occupy movement’s willingness to engage with, support, and be supported by establishment forces such as trade unions has shed some light on its dynamic persona.

This (at times) uncomfortable relationship between the Occupy and labour movements may very well be the element that aids Occupy’s survival and, to a certain extent, organised labour’s rejuvenation.

In its nascent phase, Occupy sites around the world could be seen hosting a smattering of union flags and banners. Ultimately, it was only natural for union members to be drawn into a movement fighting the ills of modern finance.

In fact, groups such as UK Uncut have been enjoying tremendous support from rank and file union members for quite some time now.

 


See also:

Occupy have provoked the intelligent debate so missing in mainstream politics 29 Feb 2012

Occupy London evicted, but are St Paul’s sad to see them go 28 Feb 2012

Occupy and its Indian sister movement are fighting the same battles 30 Jan 2012

Seek solutions to protests, not problems 2 Nov 2011

What Would Alinsky Do: Why Occupy LSX need to quit St Paul’s 31 Oct 2011


 

These sentiments were echoed perfectly over in the US by Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO national trade union centre.

He said in an interview that his members “have been trying to have the debate about Wall Street and the economy for a long time” and that the Occupy movement provided them a “vehicle” to do so. Other union leaders have pledged support saying they feel “vindicated” by the Occupy protests.

However, it is this very sense of ownership and “we said it first” mentality that have posed the most problems for Occupy activists.

Individual Occupy sites operate a consensus decision-making model of democracy and certainly do not have leaders or hierarchies. Therefore, the top-down organisation of unions together with its complicated branch structures and voting mechanisms is somewhat of an anathema to the Occupy movement.

Moreover, organised labour’s links to political parties that have propped up high finance has proved to be a sore point for many activists.

The unions’ inability to endorse the more radical and militant tactics of the Occupy movement has also been a point of discussion. This is a fundamental issue Occupy activists need to understand. Trade unions are regulated membership-based voluntary associations with their functions limited by law.

Of course, where possible, unions have been at the forefront of organising and supporting acts of civil disobedience. Workplace occupations immediately come to mind.

Unions must also represent their members and promote job creation, which may not always be a priority for folks in the Occupy movement. For example, unions in the UK are in favour of Heathrow expansion while their counterparts in Italy support the construction of the controversial Turin-Lyon high-speed railway. Both projects were denounced by the respective British and Italian Occupy groups.

It goes without saying that unions have also had their reservations about engaging with the Occupy movement. They had to make sure it was a peaceful movement with no violent fringe elements. They also needed to know that they could share a platform on at least a majority of issues without compromising their members’ interests.

If Occupy activists fear their movement is being usurped by organised labour, unions themselves will be anxious about their traditional role being outsourced. For instance, the successful Occupy Oakland “general strike” called on workers to call in sick, take leave, or simply not go into work. Similar language was used in last week’s May Day protests in the US with the invocation of another general strike.

With their unrestricted ability to call for radical action, the Occupy movement’s tactics could be seen as a re-introduction of “political strikes” in those countries that do not permit unions to do so.

Despite doubts shared by both camps, the relationship between the labour and Occupy movements needs to and should be a fruitful one. Unions can offer resources, skills and activists while getting an injection of energy and fighting spirit from the Occupy movement.

With Occupy Labour Outreach Committees being formed and successful joint protests under its belt, this symbiotic alliance has already produced great results.

Long live solidarity.

 


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28 Responses to “Unions and Occupy continue to build their wary alliance”

  1. Paul Barker

    More bloody left nostalgia

  2. Blarg1987

    You have to admit, companies pulling back on unpaird internships and shareholder revolts are a good thing, both of which have been started by the left.

  3. Anonymous

    Ah yes, gotta have lower wages, less work, fewer students…

    Why, it’s a Tory Work Program (shut up and do it for nothing!)

  4. Anonymous

    Occupy Labour?

    I’d walk away from any protest silly enough to soil itself that way. Solidarity is a left wing concept.

  5. Gibberbabble Media

    OccupyWallStNYC: RT @OccupyWallStNYC: A good take on Occupy + Labor #solidarity: http://t.co/58DfmUoM

  6. OccupyMyCat

    A good take on Occupy + Labor #solidarity: http://t.co/k9MzxSm2

  7. isojukou

    Εξαιρετικά όμορφα RT @csyllas: Συμμαχούν σταδιακά τα συνδικάτα με το κίνημα Occupy http://t.co/ukBbf4Qk

  8. Protestation.org

    A good take on Occupy + Labor #solidarity: http://t.co/k9MzxSm2

  9. Occupy Wall St. News

    Unions and Occupy continue to build their wary alliance | Left Foot …: … wary alliance. Print Friendly . Whe… http://t.co/7koV5OTx

  10. OccupyWallS

    Unions and Occupy continue to build their wary alliance | Left Foot …: … wary alliance. Print Friendly . Whe… http://t.co/xiv0UIRo

  11. JamesMikey

    A good take on Occupy + Labor #solidarity: http://t.co/k9MzxSm2

  12. #OWS in Arabic

    OccupyWallStNYC: A good take on Occupy + Labor #solidarity: http://t.co/ibBHzXsz http://t.co/NdEnDBQ2 #OWS #uk #usa

  13. BevR

    RT @leftfootfwd: Unions and Occupy continue to build their wary alliance http://t.co/fBuPFUnO

  14. BevR

    Frm yest: Unions and #Occupy continue to build their wary alliance, writes @RuwanSubasinghe: http://t.co/fzXC9ml6

  15. Ruwan Subasinghe

    @OccupyWallSt #occupy #labour #solidarity http://t.co/woVf7GYq

  16. Alex Braithwaite

    RT @leftfootfwd: Unions and Occupy continue to build their wary alliance http://t.co/H3wFME6J

  17. ⊙▲⊙JediMindTrick⊙▲⊙

    Unions and #Occupy continue to build their wary alliance http://t.co/5tbEzhzl #OWS #ONOLA #OATX #OO #OSF

  18. Sammy Beach

    RT @magpieluvsyou: Unions and #Occupy continue to build their wary alliance http://t.co/aA1VT4Bh #OWS #ONOLA #OATX #OO #OSF

  19. Kit O'Connell

    Unions and #Occupy continue to build their wary alliance http://t.co/5tbEzhzl #OWS #ONOLA #OATX #OO #OSF

  20. OccupyAustin

    Unions and #Occupy continue to build their wary alliance http://t.co/5tbEzhzl #OWS #ONOLA #OATX #OO #OSF

  21. #OccupySF Bot

    RT @Magpieluvsyou Unions and #Occupy continue to build their wary alliance http://t.co/l8LSqzSK #OWS #ONOLA #OATX #OO #OSF

  22. #OccupyAustin Bot

    RT @Magpieluvsyou Unions and #Occupy continue to build their wary alliance http://t.co/em4RJi0f #OWS #ONOLA #OATX #OO #OSF

  23. Bonnie Sonder

    RT @leftfootfwd: Unions and Occupy continue to build their wary alliance http://t.co/VGNrTcJ1

  24. Justin Jacoby Smith

    Solidarity is a left wing concept. The #15M plaza occupations in Spain and the #OWS-affiliated occupations throughout the United States are inspired by and run on principles of social anarchism: community control, mutual aid, horizontal decision-making. Solidarity–whether it be with the labor movement, the unjustly imprisoned, the illegally foreclosed, or the robbed, is deeply embedded in everything these movements do.

  25. Anonymous

    Which makes it even more important that Labour’s centralist politicians are blocked from corrupting the movements yes.

  26. JueBoo

    Unions and Occupy continue to build their wary alliance http://t.co/ygbJZJ5a

  27. Jarod Hitchings

    Interesting post: >> RT @leftfootfwd: #Unions and #Occupy continue to build their wary alliance http://t.co/cjOIytQg

  28. Marie Devine

    “Party for Socialism & Liberation PSL.org” is written in the Occupy Wall Street Signs and Trayvon Martin signs. They are part of trying to stir up a race riot in America and the world. The devil is a liar, deceiving even Socialists and Communists that there is a life of freedom ahead. There cannot be. It relies on lifelong employment, glorified slavery.
    http://www.divine-way.com/trayvon_martin_protests_from_arab_spring_occupy_promoters.html

    http://www.divine-way.com/occupy_wall_street_signs_party_for_socialism_liberation.html

    Socialists have no solutions. America and the world are going the wrong way, leading to extinction. Our lifelong employment system creates our many problems. The solution is to back out of this bottomless pit that keeps wanting more from us and turn toward making a garden paradise lifestyle that will quickly and easily solve the problems created with the glorified slavery we call employment.

    The Socialist and Communist connections in Occupy Wall Street which has prompted protests around the world are not hidden, but openly professed; but they have NO SOLUTIONS. People just have an expectation of change. They say there is no leader, but they have candidates for president and vice president for 2012 election in America.
    They cannot offer change other than change of personnel in leadership of banks, but there can be no equality. There will always be oppression in the lifelong employment system.

    USA: UNIONS OPENLY PARADE FOR COMMUNISM
    http://pajamasmedia.com/zombie/2011/05/06/seiu-drops-mask-goes-full-commie/
    Includes: video of “Obama leads SEIU chant” And his desire to unionize the country. 7-1-11
    One sign says:
    From Wisconsin to Libya, Workers of the World Unite, Fight for Communism.

    SEE CONNECTION TO Egypt Protests: http://www.divine-way.com/egypt_protests__
    kgb__socialism__unions__blacks__workers_world_connection.html 2-19-11

    A “new face or white horse” candidate can be chosen in August at the National Republican Convention if no candidate gets the required 1144 delegate votes. God will lift up His candidate IF we want REAL CHANGE NOW, while we still have that opportunity. Be sure your candidate wants God’s wisdom and not man’s “human rights” that keep us warring with nations.

    We can avoid more bondage and extinction. The way is prepared; we must want it. Socialism is more control over us, not freedom; true freedom comes from trusting God’s wisdom to help us create His garden paradise on earth NOW. ALL people of God, etc. MUST vote; God is watching each to give us what we deserve.

    God has solutions to personal, national and world problems we created by ignoring His wisdom.

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