The Occupy Wall Street movement’s political breakthrough came Wednesday, as leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus joined Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, in endorsing the burgeoning national challenge to corporate greed and corrupt politics.
On a day that saw thousands of union members, community activists and supporters of New York’s Working Families Party rallied in solidarity with the New York protests, Congressman John Larson, the Connecticut Democrat who is the fourth-ranking member of the party’s House Caucus announced that, “The silent masses aren’t so silent anymore.”
Nor were progressive groups. While some unions, especially the United Steelworkers nationally and the Tranport Workers Local 100 in New York, provided early backing, they were ouliers—until Wednesay. Liberal groups such as MoveOn and Democracy for America gave their blessings and started raising money to support the initiative. The 1.4 million member Teamsters union signed on, with President James Hoffa saying: “No one should be surprised that Occupy Wall Street is gaining support and spreading quickly around the country. The American Dream has disappeared for students, whose reality is debt and unemployment. The dream disappeared for workers forced to take wage cuts by employers sitting on billions of dollars in profits. The dream disappeared for working families who paid too steep a price for Wall Street’s greed, stupidity and fraud.”
“It’s clear what this movement is all about. It’s about taking America back from the CEOs and billionaires on Wall Street who have destroyed our nation’s economy. It’s about creating good jobs. It’s about corporate America treating its workers and customers with honesty and fairness and paying its fair share to stimulate the economy,” argued Hoffa. “Teamsters all over the country are participating in Occupy Wall Street events, and I support and encourage them. We stand in solidarity with Americans who want better lives for themselves and for future generations.”
Similar signals came from key members of Congress.
Not surprisingly, it was Sanders who offered the most full-throated support of the movement. At the Campaign for America’s Future “Take Back America” conference, he declared: “We have the crooks on Wall Street, and I use that word advisedly—don’t misquote me, the word is ‘crooks’—whose greed, whose recklessness, whose illegal behavior caused this terrible recession with so much suffering. We believe in this country; we love this country; and we will be damned if we’re going to see a handful of robber barons control the future of this country.”
Remarkably, considering the caution of so many elected officials with regard to the protests, Sanders actually called for a toughening of the movement’s anti–Wall Street message. “I applaud those protesters who are out there, who are focusing attention on Wall Street, but what we’ve got to do is put meat on that bone,” he said. “We’ve got to make demands on Wall Street [and] break those institutions up.”