Declaring that “Wall Street’s out of control,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has embraced street protests such as the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations—and others like them that are planned for cities across the country.
Asked about the ongoing mass protest in New York’s financial district, which has begun to gain support from major unions, Trumka said Friday morning: “I think it’s a tactic and a valid tactic to call attention to a problem. Wall Street is out of control. We have three imbalances in this country—the imbalance between imports and exports, the imbalance between employer power and working power, and the imbalance between the real economy and the financial economy. We need to bring back balance to the financial economy, and calling attention to it and peacefully protesting is a very legitimate way of doing it.”
Hailing the power of street protests to shift the dialogue, Trumka said, “I think being in the streets and calling attention to issues is sometimes the only recourse you have because, God only knows, you can go to the Hill, and you can talk to a lot of people and see nothing ever happen…”
Organized largely by young people and initially neglected by much of the media and major political players, the Occupy Wall Street protest has begun to attract global attention, as prominent figures such as filmmaker Michael Moore and Dr. Cornel West have joined the hundreds of demonstrators who have maintained a steady presence since thousands of anticorporate activists massed on September 17.
Trumka’s remarks came as key union locals began to endorse the Occupy Wall Street protests, which have gained increasing attention over the past two weeks. Transport Workers Union Local 100, which represents 38,000 New York City transit workers (and 26,000 retirees), endorsed the protests Wednesday, with a statement that read:
The Transport Workers Union Local 100 applauds the courage of the young people on Wall Street who are dramatically demonstrating for what our position has been for some time: the shared sacrifice preached by government officials looks awfully like a one-way street. Workers and ordinary citizens are putting up all the sacrifice, and the financiers who imploded our economy are getting away scot-free, increasing their holdings and bonuses.
Young people face a bleak future with high unemployment, and minimum-wage jobs. Public sector workers face Mayors and Governors who demand massive wage and benefits givebacks or face thousands of layoffs. That’s not bargaining. That’s blackmail.