Once Enemies, Now They March Together: Organized Labor Expected to join Wall Street Protest

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The New York Daily News

Once Enemies, Now They March Together: Organized Labor Expected to join Wall Street Protest

by
Juan Gonzalez

A demonstrator holds a sign during an Occupy Wall Street protest in lower Manhattan in New York October 3, 2011. The Occupy Wall Street protests moved into their third week on Monday with demonstrators camping out in Zuccotti Park. (REUTERS/Mike Segar)

Organized labor will serve notice today on the bankers and the politicians that the young protesters of Occupy Wall Street speak for millions.

Tens of thousands of transit and city workers, teachers, and maintenance and hospital workers are expected to march to Zuccotti Park late today in a show of solidarity.

The labor rally will signal just how far unions have come since that infamous day 41 years ago, when bands of construction workers rampaged through the Financial District and City Hall. Back then, the hardhats brutally beat scores of youths protesting the Vietnam War.

Now the young people and the unions are on the same side.

"The whole order of things today is absolutely upside down," said John Samuelsen, president of the Transport Workers Union Local 100. "Tax breaks for millionaires, working people suffer, and no jobs for these kids."

Establishment critics of the Zuccotti Park events have no clue what is happening. By setting up camp near the scene of Wall Street's still-unpunished crimes, and by persevering round the clock for nearly three weeks, these kids have created a boot camp for social change.

There was, for instance, the wide-eyed couple newly arrived yesterday from Catasauqua, Pa. Colin Muth and Taylor Anderson, both 20, were clutching backpacks and sleeping blankets under their arms.

"We came because we've got to do something to reduce the wealth gap," Muth said.

"I had to drop out of community college because I can't afford it," Anderson said. "We're here to learn how this is done so we can go back home and occupy Bethlehem."

Did they tell their parents before they left home?

"Sure," Muth said. "And my dad said, 'Go for it.'"

A few feet away were Erica Redling, 21, and Timothy Mahr, 31, from Albany. They arrived at Zuccotti Park on Sunday. Redling immediately joined the park's sanitation committee. Mahr, a documentary filmmaker, joined the media committee.

"We've got a group in Albany ready to do the same thing up there," Redling. "The others are researching the right piece of land back home while we learn the ropes down here. We'll go back in a few days and share our experiences."

"It's no longer 'Occupy' it's Occtiply Wall Street," Mahr quipped.

All over the country, people are fed up with politicians, Democrats and Republicans, who keep catering to the wealthy but do nothing about the economic crisis afflicting the great majority.

Mayor Bloomberg, for instance, wants to lay off hundreds of $20,000-a-year school aides this Friday while he keeps hiring $200,000-a-year consultants.

Those aides know the protesters in Zuccotti Park speak for them. They know similar protests are erupting in cities across the country.

This is how the Arab Spring began: young people camping in a square and refusing to leave. Sometimes, it's just that simple.

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