Occupy Wall Street demonstrators stand and cheer in front of the George Washington statue on Wall Street as they celebrate the protest’s sixth month, Saturday, March 17, 2012, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Occupy Wall Street hopes to capture headlines once again next week with the May 1 “General Strike”, long advertised by the group as an event that will prove to the public and media that OWS is currently experiencing a resurgence. Whether workers, students or banking customers, OWS is calling on all Americans to stop offering their labor and money to corporations for one day and join their local Occupy chapter for a day of resistance.
The plan initially drew the ire of some labor leaders who quickly declared their members would not participate in the so-called strike.
“It won’t happen,” Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, flatly told Buzzfeed. “They are not working with the unions in a serious way yet; nor are the unions working with them in a serious way. And it is the wrong strategy.”
Under the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act, a general strike in support of other workers is illegal. Furthermore, individual unions must call for a strike, so the participation of workers in a protest does not constitute a general strike.
The official OWS press release about May Day mentions the phrase “general strike” twice: once in the headline, and once in quotation marks in the first paragraph. Perhaps keenly aware of the likelihood that an across-the-board labor strike is not only unlikely but illegal, the day is now being described by organizers as a nationwide protest with themes of economic noncompliance. (Poster by Nina Montenegro, via Occuprint.)
“We wanted to create a broad space for people in all different circumstances from all sorts of backgrounds to be able to participate,” the OWS press release states. “But we also recognize that for some people skipping work is not feasible so we are encouraging people to participate how they can whether that involves wearing a button at work or leaving early or simply showing up to the march after work.”
Shawn Carrié, an Occupier who has been working on the May Day project since January, remembers the exact moment the direct action working group he was participating in passed a proposal to the General Assembly announcing OWS would stand in solidarity with the call for a general strike. He remembers the event in precise detail because the group was so conscious of its wording.
“There was varying opinion over whether to call for only a general strike, or only a day on economic noncompliance, and we wanted everyone’s views to be represented in the call,” he explains.