Help push back B.C.'s antidemocratic legislation. Fight Bill 18!
Vancouver (28 Nov. 2011) - The B.C. Government and Service Employees Union (BCGEU/NUPGE) is mounting a fight against the provincial Liberal government' attempt to block union activists from seeking leadership positions within college, institute and university Board of Governors.
Bill 18 - the Advanced Education Statutes Amendment Act - which has been introduced to the B.C. legislature with no consultation or notification, contains anti-democratic changes to the College and Institute Act that would:
•Ban union activists involved in collective bargaining or dispute resolution activities from being elected as staff representatives on college, institute and university Boards of Governors;
•Prohibit elected board members from serving as board chair; and
•Give government-appointed board members unprecedented powers to remove elected staff members from the board with a 2/3 majority vote.
The proposed amendments are not only undemocratic, but likely contravene union members' constitutional rights to freedom of association.
Conflict of interest legislation already provides clear guidelines of conduct for members of public bodies. Union activists are no more potentially in conflict than regular unionized employees, who are both equally affected by Board decisions.
You can help convince the B.C. government to drop this ill-conceived legislation. Send an e-mail here to Naomi Yamamoto, the Minister of Advanced Education, and NDP Opposition critic Michelle Mungall, telling the government to pull this legislation.
Download PDF file of SAMPLE EMAIL TEXT for College/Institute staff, College/Institute union activists, and general BCGEU/NUPGE members.
Send a copy to your own MLA (link to BC Legislature contact page)
Download a PDF copy of Bill 18 (College & Institute Act changes start on Page 8)
Access online copy of current College & Institutes Act
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE
nupge.ca, Tues Nov 29 2011
- Non-unionized Beer Outlets an Privately Owned Wine Boutiques (cause: opening of non-unionized shops)
- Canada Post Franchise Outlets (privatization of Canada Post)
- NORPAC Food Processor Boycott [support for Oregon Farmworkers (PCUN) - this Oregon-based food processor has refused for eight years to negotiate a first contract] - Note: February 18 PCNU signed framwork for agreement. Boycott has been suspended but will not be cancelled until an agreement is reached.
- Sklar Peppler, Alan White Branded Furniture, and its manufacturer, AW Manufacturing (in support of approximately 100 USW members. After moving to Ajax from Whitby, Ontario in 2006, Sklar Peppler went into bankruptcy in August of 2008. The President of Sklar Peppler bought the company's assets out of bankruptcy in late 2008 and proceeded to close the facility. He then bought AW Manufacturing Inc., another furniture manufacturer in Mississippi, USA, and now uses product from that plant to sell to Sklar's customers. The hard-working Steelworkers who were employed by Sklar Peppler in Canada not only lost their jobs, they lost their severance pay in the bankruptcy proceedings.)
Strikes and Lockouts
UFCW 401 at Forest Lawn Sobey's, September 30, 2011 - November 27, 2011
CAW Local 2002 (Air Canada), June 14, 2011 - June 16, 2011 - Canadian Auto Workers Local 2002 at Air Canada file 72-hour strike notice - picket lines set up on Tuesday, June 14, 2011 at Calgary and Edmonton International Airports (national strike) - Air Canada refused to remove major concessionary demands on existing pension plan - June 16, 2011 - deal reached with Air Canada and CAW 2002 after federal government said it would introduce back-to-work legislation - pension issue to arbitration.
CUPW, June 2, 2011 - June 27, 2011 (National) - Canadian Union of Postal Workers file 72-hour strike notice - rotating strikes began Thursday, June 2nd, 11:59 p.m. EDT (9:59 p.m. MT) - Rally/dance June 3rd - nationwide lockout June 15, 2011. Ordered back to work on June 27, 2011.
- UFCW 401 (Gate Gourmet) at Edmonton International Airport, April 16, 2011 - July 1, 2011 - main issue remaining was company's demand for three-year wage freeze; the settlement included a wage increase and no concessions.
- UFCW 401 (McKesson Canada) - June 28, 2010 (Edmonton) - strike ended September 1, 2010
- UFCW 1118 (Canada Malting) - August 24, 2010 (Calgary) - The major issue in the dispute is the company's insistence on moving from a defined benefits pension plan to a defined contributions plan - strike ended November 6, 2010
All six unions whose members sought recertification under Gov. Scott Walker's controversial new collective bargaining law won those elections by wide margins, state officials reported Wednesday.
The voting demonstrates that the union members remain strong and united, Dian Palmer, president of SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin said in a statement.
"Nurses and health care professionals understand that a collective voice is not just about wages and benefits — this is about quality care for all Wisconsinites," Palmer said. "Scott Walker has united the labor movement. As a union we will move forward, and as a union we will succeed."
Under the new state law that removed most public employee collective bargaining rights, bargaining units need to win the backing of 51 percent of their bargaining unit members in order to have limited ability to bargain for cost-of-living wage increases.
The election result "means that we will be issuing a demand to begin bargaining," said Nancy Wettersten, vice president of Wisconsin State Attorney's Association. "It is very gratifying to the leadership of the union to have such a strong show of support and confidence."
Peter Davis, general counsel for the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission, reported these results:
• The 261-member bargaining unit for the Wisconsin State Attorney's Association voted 217-6 for the union.
• The 1,033-member Service Employees International Union Healthcare Wisconsin won 658-23.
• The Association of State Prosecutors voted 289-7 for certification. It had 368 eligible members.
• The State Professional Education and Information Council voted 523-12 out of 655 members.
• Wisconsin State Building Trades Negotiating Committee voted 320-11 out of 434 members.
• The state Professional Employees in Research, Statistics and Analysis unit voted 42-0 for the union. There were 57 eligible voters.
The voting took place via telephone over the last two weeks.
The vast majority of state employee union members chose not to seek certification, saying the rules were unfair, the cost too high, and the payoff too small, since a certified union would be able to bargain only for limited wage increases, not benefits or working conditions.
Voting for teachers unions begins later this month. Municipal unions vote early next year.
Wisconsin State Journal, Wed Nov 16 2011
From a midnight pajama party in a Madison bar to a rally in front of Gov. Scott Walker's (R) Wauwatosa home, thousands of Wisconsin volunteers kicked off the official signature gathering period to put Walker's recall before the voters next year. Recall forces now have 60 days to gather some 540,000 signatures.
At the pajama party, where participants were set for action at this morning's official 12:01 a.m. start of the signature gathering clock, Erik Kirkstein, a spokesman for United Wisconsin, told The Badger Herald:
The people of Wisconsin have been waiting for this for months. This is the culmination of citizens all across the state, and we can't wait to recognize them and start [the recall] off on the right track.
The broad recall coalition, which includes the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO, brings together the same citizen energy that fueled working families' win in Ohio last week. By an overwhelming 61 percent margin, voters overturned Gov. John Kasich's S.B. 5, which eliminated the collective bargaining rights of public employees.
Anger over Walker's elimination of the rights of nurses, teachers and other public workers to bargain for a middle-class life was the driving force behind this summer's successful recalls of two of Walker's key backers in the state Senate. Now, says Wisconsin State AFL-CIO President Phil Neuenfeldt:
Working families in Ohio went to the polls and voted to support Ohio's public employees and their right to collectively bargain. Unlike Ohio, Wisconsin workers do not have the opportunity to put a referendum on the ballot. Thankfully, we have the right to recall. [The] win in Ohio has energized and excited Wisconsin workers to recall Gov. Walker and put a stop to his attack on working families.
Along with Walker's attack on workers, Wisconsin voters also are upset at Walker's drastic budget cuts and lack of job creation, says Wisconsin State AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Stephanie Bloomingdale.
In order for Wisconsin to have a strong middle class, we need to change direction. Over 65,000 Wisconsinites, half of them children, are being kicked off Medicaid; 40 percent of our children's classrooms are increasing in size; working families are being made scapegoats for budget situations they didn't create and family-supporting jobs are not being created at the rate Wisconsinites expect. This is not the Wisconsin way and the citizens of the state have taken it upon themselves to change course.
AFL-CIO Now Blog, Tues Nov 15 2011
Issue: In an attempt at union-busting, Sobeys has tabled an offer to members of UFCW 401 at the store in Forest Lawn in Calgary that does not include a return-to-work agreement for striking workers. The workers have declined to vote on the offer, so the strike continues.
Action Requested: Join the rally to support the workers at the store at 5105 – 17 Avenue SE, Calgary.
When: 4:00 p.m. to 6 p.m., Wednesday, November 16th.
On Saturday November 12, 2011, UFCW local 401 members at Forest Lawn Sobeys declined to vote on the company's latest offer because it did not include a return-to-work agreement for striking members. This is a radical step in collective bargaining. The absence of such an agreement sends a strong message that the company is not interested in bargaining, it is only interested in union busting. Not having a return-to-work agreement leaves the door open for the employer to try to punish workers for exercising their right to strike. The Sobeys family is one of Canada's richest, with skyrocketing net worth into the billions of dollars. Canadian Business magazine ranked them in 25th spot on its Rich 100 list in Canada, with a net worth of $2.26 billion, with their wealth growing rapidly in the last two years. Meanwhile, they have been pushing for concessions from employees at a Sobeys store in Calgary.
AFL's Position: The AFL is asking union members to support the striking workers by joining them on the picket line whenever possible (the picket line runs every day from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.) and by attending the rally on November 16th. We are asking retail customers to avoid shopping at all Sobeys outlets until they sign a new collective agreement that respects workers.
Action: Join the rally from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesday, November 16th, at the Sobeys outlet store at 5105 17th Avenue. S.E., Calgary.
Anyone who has been monitoring the events in Wisconsin since Gov. Scott Walker and his cronies took over knows that corruption with this crew runs far and deep. Now that the official recall campaign launches Tuesday, the potential for more misdeeds is greater then ever.
The latest scheme is apparently to burn and shred recall petitions and to mislead Wisconsinites about the recall process.
The blog PolitiScoop first reported about the plans, linking back to Facebook posts that detailed them. They include having conservatives pose as recall supporters and gather signatures, only to later destroy the petition. They also include telling Wisconsinites that they may only sign one recall petition, despite the fact that Wisconsin law allows otherwise.
Destroying or defacing an official recall petitions would violate state law. It's a class I felony, punishable by a fine of $10,000 and up to three-and-a-half years in jail. But Walker's supporters are apparently not only totally ignorant of the consequences, they are brazen in their plan to break the law. Just take a look at these screenshots bragging about their plans.
Gov. Scott Walker and his supporters continue playing dirty politics at the expense of constituents. With stakes only getting higher, we can expect the tricks and all-out lawbreaking to escalate. But if there is one thing that can keep the faith for those of us who believe in democracy and the rule of law it is that the movement that started in Madison has not stopped, and it will not stop until these clowns are gone.
care2.com, Mon Nov 14 2011
South Korean woman Kim Jin-suk has touched ground for the first time since January to end her 309 day protest against Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction. She confined herself to the cramped conditions of a 35 metre tall crane in the southern port city of Busan, with no electricity or washing facilities.
South Korean Kim Jin-suk just before ending her successful 309 day 'living in a crane' protest.
The protest began when Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction announced it was cutting 400 jobs from its shipyard. Since then thousands of protesters have rallied and marched through Busan in a show support facing resistance from the authorities and often ending in many arrests.
Initially it was thought that an agreement would be reached gaining improved compensation for those that had been laid-off. However the protests continued as they valued jobs over compensation. Kim had said that she would not come down until the workers were reinstated.
After 309 days she has succeeded with the union finally approving a compromise with management whereby 94 laid-off workers would be rehired within the year. Workers were to be compensated with 20 million Won (£11,000) and the damage lawsuits previously filed against them were to be dropped.
Thousands of protesters have rallied and marched through Busan in a show support facing resistance from the authorities and often ending in many arrests.
"The agreement will take effect when activist Kim descends the crane," said a union leader. "Kim said she would come down if union members vote to accept the agreement."
Unfortunately following a medical check-up Kim Jin-suk is to be arrested on charges of obstructing business and trespassing although this will meet with fierce resistance from the laid off workers.
The protest had cost Hajin millions of pounds and the company revealed a net loss of 51.7 billion won (£31million) last year.
Vertikal.net,Thurs Nov 10 2011
Unions and Young People: A Winning Combination for 2012? The successful effort to roll back anti-union legislation in Ohio points to a possible future for the Occupy Wall Street movement
In the wake of a significant electoral victory in Ohio Tuesday, unions and their supporters are energized and eager to flex their newly honed political muscles. But the path to greater electoral clout in 2012 could lie in a partnership with young voters and followers of the Occupy movement.
It may seem like an odd pairing: Grizzled and battle-scarred union members, many of whom have voted Republican in the past and are more socially conservative, and free-spirited Millennials more comfortable texting than organizing.
But the two groups have a lot in common, chiefly concerns about their own economic futures and income inequality in this country, which are also the central themes of the Occupy movement.
"The basic message that Occupy Wall Street has -- that people are fed up with the top one percent getting everything -- it resonates with union members and young people," says AFL-CIO Political Director, Mike Podhorzer, in an interview from Ohio on election night.
Both groups have been victims of globalization, outsourcing, downsizing and the recession and are reeling from the nation's tough economic conditions, as are millions of other Americans.
Young people between the ages of 18-24 have unemployment rates above 17 percent -- among the highest levels of unemployment of any demographic group in the country.
And unions have seen their already thinned ranks shrink even more recently. In 2010, union membership was down to just under 12 percent of all workers in the U.S., its lowest level in 70 years. In the mid-1950's, the unionization rate was 35 percent of all workers.
But what if labor unions and young people joined together on issues beyond repealing Senate Bill 5, the law to restrict union rights in Ohio? Such an alliance has the potential to create a powerful political force. Unions have the experience, organization, money and political know how. Young people have the numbers and the passion.
"The primary goal of unions is to create good paying jobs and that's something that young people can't find these days," says Podhorzer.
Polls have shown a majority of Americans are sympathetic to the central message of the Occupy protests -- that Wall Street brokers and big banks don't do what is best for the rest of America. But they are also somewhat skeptical of the protestors, who seem a bit scruffy and unfocused.
Pew Research Center polls show most Americans agree with the statement that "this is a country in which the rich get richer and the poor get poorer." And a growing number of people have begun to see the U.S. as a nation divided into two groups: the "haves" and the "have nots."
Our financial system and tax code serve those at the top but penalize the middle class and have increased the income gap between rich and middle-class wage earners to the largest disparity in 40 years. Last year, CEO pay at Fortune 500 companies was up an astronomical 24 percent and corporate profits were up 81 percent. But most Americans -- the 99 percent -- aren't feeling the benefits of this economic success.
That lack of fairness is at the heart of the Occupy movement and may also have been the driving factor in the repeal of the anti-union law in Ohio, through no votes on Issue 2 Tuesday. It's clear by the overwhelming 61-39 percent vote that many voters felt what was being done to the unions wasn't fair.
There was also a sense that the Ohio law, which would have severely restricted collective bargaining rights for the state's 360,000 public employees, went too far. Unions raised more than $30 million to repeal SB 5, passed by the Republican legislature earlier this year without a single Democratic vote.
State Senator Bill Seitz, who was one of six Senate Republicans to vote against SB 5, likened the fight to "The Battle of Little Big Horn" and the passion of the union opponents to the Native American tribes who annihilated General George Custer and his U.S. Cavalry troops in 1876 while attempting to defend their way of life.
Gov. John Kasich and the Ohio Republicans said SB 5 was needed so local and state governments facing huge deficits could renegotiate public employee contracts and make the cuts necessary to balance their budgets. But the law went much further in an obvious attempt to weaken unions by making it harder for them to collect dues and organize.
Columbus police sergeant Jerry Cupp is a former Republican who voted for Kasich last fall. "Now we're all kicking ourselves in the ass because of what these guys have done to us..." he says. "To try to put the debt of the state of Ohio on the backs of the police and firefighters and teachers...It's not about the budget at all, and we know that. It's about payback time."
Because Republicans see both unions and young people as important Democratic constituencies, they have tried to weaken their influence since activists and union members took over statehouses around the country last fall. Another thing that unites the two groups: this pushback.
The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that more than 700 bills targeting unions were introduced in 2011. Ohio, Wisconsin, Florida, New Jersey and other states controlled by Republicans have sought to curb the power of unions with legislation. But those efforts have drawn a backlash. In Wisconsin, recall efforts succeeded in removing two state senators who voted for the anti-union legislation and a recall effort has been launched against Gov. Scott Walker.
Heather Smith, the president of Rock the Vote, which helps register and organize young voters, says she believes the massive protests in Wisconsin earlier this year gave birth to the Occupy movement.
"Occupy supporters have talked about Wisconsin as an inspiration. This has been building for a while. This coalition of young people and labor is an organically developing movement," she says.
In attempt to limit young voter and minority participation, more than 40 pieces of legislation are pending in state legislatures according to Smith.
Seven states have passed photo ID laws for voting and at least a dozen others have introduced bills to limit voter registration and reduce early voting opportunities.
However, Maine voters on Tuesday rejected an effort by the Republican legislature and governor to do away with same day voter registration which the state has had for decades. The most egregious example of trying to infringe on voting rights was in New Hampshire where Republicans attempted to prevent college students from voting in the state. The Supreme Court has already decided this issue and ruled that college students are entitled to the same presumption of residency as any other citizen. But the GOP bill would have required them to vote in their home states by absentee ballot, even if they lived in New Hampshire twelve months a year. The legislation would also have eliminated the state's same-day voter registration. House Speaker William O'Brien said college students were guilty of, gasp, "voting liberal." But the legislation was voted down by the New Hampshire legislature.
Thanks to a new Texas law, you can only vote in that state if you have a Texas issued driver's license, a concealed gun permit or a passport -- no student IDs even from state schools count.
The question now is whether unions will employ the same level of ferocity to campaign for Barack Obama and other Democrats in 2012 as they used against SB 5 and if young people and Occupy supporters will join them.
Generations X and Y turned out in force to vote for Barack Obama in 2008 but have become disillusioned with his inability to bring about the fundamental change he promised and have faded back into the woodwork, not voting in large numbers in 2010.
"There's increased cynicism about politics -- it's dirty, it's frustrating... They see their voices being trumped by corporate interests. Young people are not feeling like they're being heard or valued in the political process," says Smith.
Ken Weber is a senior at the University of Colorado in Boulder who supported Barack Obama in 2008. He does not think his friends are as engaged or interested as they were in 2008, something that is supported by Pew Center findings.
The share of Millennials who say that they personally care a good deal about who wins the 2012 presidential election is down more than 10 points from four years ago, according Pew.
Millennials, who are 18 to 30, have voted more Democratic than older voters in the last four national elections. But they are also more disillusioned than older voters. Shortly after the 2008 election, 81 percent of Millennials said Obama made them feel hopeful, while 80 percent felt proud. Today, only about half of Millennials say Obama makes them feel hopeful or proud, according to Pew.
Four years ago, when Weber was a freshman, he says, "We were talking every day about the election and Obama. There was a lot of excitement and passion... He came in with such high expectations -- and he hasn't lived up to all of those."
Weber says he often hears from his friends that "they don't vote because the political system is corrupt and they think it's a waste of time."
As a result of this feeling of disappointment, Smith has a big concern that youth turnout next year will not match 2008 levels. "I do believe it's a harder environment but for that reason it feels even more important."
Union members have a good record of voting, but in recent years it has often been for Republicans. In 2010, Democrats suffered huge losses among white blue-collar voters who voted Republican by an almost two to one margin.
Jon Harvey, a firefighter in Middletown in southwestern Ohio, estimates that 70 percent of the firefighters he knows voted Republican in 2010 but he thinks there's been a sea change thanks to Republican anti-union efforts. "What I'm hearing now is I'll never do it again," he says.
Scott Clinger, a Columbus policed officer, told me the day after the Ohio election, "I bet Obama is just laughing at John Kasich saying 'You did the best thing you could ever do for me.'"
Clinger predicts the coalition that defeated SB 5 will hold. "It's going to be a force in the future...It's not going to just die off. I never saw all of these groups band together like they did here."
The AFL-CIO's Podhorzer called the Ohio vote "the first test for whether or not there can be a coalition of young people, workers and people of color for 2012."
This marriage could provide the answer to the question -- what is the future of Occupy Wall Street?
The Atlantic, Wed Nov 9 2011
Today the people of Ohio will decide, in a referendum vote, whether Gov. John Kasich's anti-worker bill will become law or get tossed out. So when an Ohio union staffer and registered Democrat got a robo-call this morning telling her to vote "tomorrow" — not today, Nov. 8 — she became immediately suspicious. The call was received by an SEIU staff member.
The group sponsoring the robocall is the American Future Fund, a Republican organization led by a member of the Iowa State Senate. Although the call instructed her to vote the Republican-sponsored position in support of Issue 2 — the ballot measure that could ratify of S.B. 5, the bill that would virtually end collective bargaining for public employees — the recipient is a registered Democrat.
Could it be that the American Future Fund was hoping to confuse Democrats about the date of the election, and in a manner that could make it all seem like an innocent mistake?
Anthony Caldwell, spokesperson for SEIU Local 1199, told the Huffington Post:
For a group [American Future Fund] that has coordinated a $1 million mail campaign, I find it highly unlikely they would make a simple clerical error and send out a robocall to non-supporters telling them to vote the day after Election Day.
Here's the script of the call, via the Huffington Post, which was received by the SEIU staffer at 9:37 this morning:
Hi, I am calling to remind you that tomorrow is Election Day. It is critically important that you go vote and protect the future of our country. Tomorrow, please go to the polls and vote YES on Issue 2, and vote YES on Issue 3. Paid for by American Future Fund and not authorized by any candidate or candidate committee. 866-559-5854.
Although polls show wide opposition to the S.B. 5 bill that a "Yes" vote on Issue 2 would ratify, the vote could be much closer than polls predict, as we reported earlier today, especially given the lengths to which anti-labor forces have gone to suppress voter turnout. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka traveled to the state today to urge union members to vote "No" on Issue 2.
AFL-CIO NOW BLOG, Tues Nov 8 2011
Organized labor's early flirtation with Occupy Wall Street is starting to get serious.Last month, Verizon workers marched past Zuccotti Park in solidarity with Occupy protesters.
Union leaders, who were initially cautious in embracing the Occupy movement, have in recent weeks showered the protesters with help — tents, air mattresses, propane heaters and tons of food. The protesters, for their part, have joined in union marches and picket lines across the nation. About 100 protesters from Occupy Wall Street are expected to join a Teamsters picket line at the Sotheby's auction house in Manhattan on Wednesday night to back the union in a bitter contract fight.
Labor unions, marveling at how the protesters have fired up the public on traditional labor issues like income inequality, are also starting to embrace some of the bold tactics and social media skills of the Occupy movement.
Last Wednesday, a union transit worker and a retired Teamster were arrested for civil disobedience inside Sotheby's after sneaking through the entrance to harangue those attending an auction — echoing the lunchtime ruckus that Occupy Wall Street protesters caused weeks earlier at two well-known Manhattan restaurants owned by Danny Meyer, a Sotheby's board member.
Organized labor's public relations staff is also using Twitter, Tumblr and other social media much more aggressively after seeing how the Occupy protesters have used those services to mobilize support by immediately transmitting photos and videos of marches, tear-gassing and arrests. The Teamsters, for example, have beefed up their daily blog and posted many more photos of their battles with BMW, US Foods and Sotheby's on Facebook and Twitter.
"The Occupy movement has changed unions," said Stuart Appelbaum, the president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. "You're seeing a lot more unions wanting to be aggressive in their messaging and their activity. You'll see more unions on the street, wanting to tap into the energy of Occupy Wall Street."
Unions have long stuck to traditional tactics like picketing. But inspired by the Occupy protests, labor leaders are talking increasingly of mobilizing the rank and file and trying to flex their muscles through large, boisterous marches, including nationwide marches planned for Nov. 17.
Organized labor is also seizing on the simplicity of the Occupy movement's message, which criticizes the great wealth of the top 1 percent of Americans compared with the economic struggles of much of the bottom 99 percent.
A memo that the A.F.L.-C.I.O. sent out last week recommended that unions use the Occupy message about inequality and the 99 percent far more in their communications with members, employers and voters.
Indeed, as part of its contract battle with Verizon, the communications workers' union has began asserting in its picket signs that Verizon and its highly paid chief executive are part of the 1 percent, while the Verizon workers who face demands for concessions are part of the 99 percent. A dozen Verizon workers plan to begin walking from Albany to Manhattan on Thursday in a "March for the 99 percent."
"We think the Occupy movement has given voice to something very basic about what's going on in our country right now," said Damon Silvers, the A.F.L.-C.I.O.'s policy director. "The fact that they've figured out certain concepts and language for doing that, we think is really important and positive."
Over the last month, unions have provided extensive support to Occupy protesters around the country, from rain ponchos to cash donations. National Nurses United is providing staff members for first-aid tables at many encampments, while the A.F.L.-C.I.O.'s headquarters two blocks from the White House is providing shower facilities for the protesters occupying McPherson Square, 300 yards to the east.
Unions have also intervened with politicians on behalf of the protesters. In Los Angeles, labor leaders have repeatedly lobbied Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa not to evict the protesters. When New York City officials were threatening to evict the Occupy Wall Street protesters from Zuccotti Park, hundreds of union members showed up before daybreak to discourage any eviction, and the city backed down.
Like any relationship, however, the one between the Occupy movement and labor is complicated.
Dozens of Occupy protesters have joined union members to picket the Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles and Verizon offices in Washington, Buffalo and Boston. (A Verizon spokesman said the Occupy protesters "do not have the benefit of any information about the Verizon issues except what they've been told by the union, which is obviously one-sided and most likely inaccurate.")
In New York, the Occupy protesters have joined the Teamsters in their attacks on Sotheby's. The art auction house locked out 43 Teamster art handlers on July 29, after the union balked at its demands for sizable concessions.
In addition to the lunchtime protest at the Danny Meyer restaurants, Occupy protesters also joined recent picketing against Sotheby's outside the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Diana Phillips, a Sotheby's spokeswoman, said the company had offered a fair contract and "is unwilling to accept demands that virtually double the cost of their contract."
Arthur Brown, a mental health worker who is one of the founders of Occupy Buffalo, where 50 people camp out each night, said the Occupy movement badly needed labor's backing if it is to change the nation's policies and politics.
"Young people started this movement, but they can't finish it," Mr. Brown said. "They don't have the capacity or the experience to finish it. We really need the working class and union folks, the older folks, the activists from the '60s. '70s and '80s, to help make this a full-fledged movement that will change the political landscape of America."
But some Occupy protesters worry that organized labor might seek to co-opt them.
Jake Lowry, a 21-year-old college student and an Occupy participant, said: "We're glad to have unions endorse us, but we can't formally endorse them. We're an autonomous group and it's important to keep our autonomy."
George Gresham, president of 1199 S.E.I.U., a union that represents more than 300,000 health care workers in the Northeast, said his union wanted to help the Occupy movement amplify its voice.
"This is a dream come true for us to have these young people speaking out about what's been happening to working people," Mr. Gresham said. His union has offered to provide 500 flu shots and a week's worth of meals for the Occupy Wall Street protesters.
María Elena Durazo, executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, said it remained to be seen whether the unions and the protesters could, by working together, achieve concrete change.
"Workers are with the Occupy movement on the broader issues; they're with them on the issue of inequality," she said. "The question is, can the labor movement or the Occupy movement move that message down to the workplace, where workers confront low wages, low benefits and little power? Can we use it to organize workers where it really matters, in the workplace, to help their everyday life?"
New York Times, Tues Nov 8 2011