Unions stand with 'Occupy' protesters

STEPHON JOHNSON Amsterdam News Staff | 10/6/2011, 3:53 p.m.

"Over the past two weeks, we've seen something unusual and promising: a gathering of people-mostly young-who are protesting the corporate power and coarse inequality that characterizes our society and economy," read the statement.

"For two weeks, these inspired and inspiring young people, under the banner of Occupy Wall Street, have occupied our attention and camped out in Liberty Plaza. WFP staff have brought back exciting reports from a demonstration that gets more interesting every day.

"We stand with them in their call for a more just and equitable society," the statement continued.

TWU Local 100 is also throwing its support behind the Occupy Wall Street protesters. The union even issued a statement detailing just how much they stand with them.

"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," read the statement.

"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," continued the TWU statement. "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."

In another development from the protests, the TWU is also suing the New York Police Department for allegedly forcing bus drivers to transport arrested protesters. According to TWU President John Samuelsen, officers even ordered regular passengers off of a bus and told them to wait for the next one while they filled the bus with arrestees.

"The government may only compel a citizen to assist in law enforcement when there is imminent danger," Samuelsen said in a statement. "There was no imminent danger here, and therefore the [bus] operator's Fourth Amendment rights were violated."

Charles Jenkins, director of special projects and second vice chair of TWU Local 100, further supported Samuelsen's statements.

"It's clear that our drivers are hired to transport the riding public," Jenkins said to the AmNews. "We understand that these buses were commandeered, not through the proper channels but through stopping and seizing. It had operators at a disadvantage, not knowing what was going on and why they were transporting protesters that the union had endorsed the day before."

Jenkins told the AmNews that the union is seeking an injunction against the "commandeering and utilizing of our operators to transport people are arrested."

"Our position is that people were unjustly arrested," Jenkins said. "They put our bus operators in a very stressful and untrained situation."

Some organizations have gone further than just showing support and are providing the protesters with financial support and other sustenance.

"1199 SEIU is in official solidarity with us. They're giving us food for a week and medical training. This is huge!" read a tweet from Occupy Wall Street's official Twitter account. In an email to the AmNews, the union expressed its solidarity with group.

"On Friday, Sept. 30, 1199 SEIU's executive leadership voted unanimously to support the Wall Street protesters' demands that corporate America be held accountable for the current economic crisis," read the statement issued by 1199 SEIU spokesperson Leah Gonzalez.

"Corporations and the wealthy should pay the fair share in taxes they owe to middle-class Americans so this country can get back to work. We need jobs, not cuts."