Once again, attempts to break up the Occupy movement through police violence have backfired on city authorities. Occupy Oakland's call for a general strike tomorrow, November 2nd, in response to the brutal police attack on October 25th, promises to be a major show of strength by organized labor in Oakland. Solidarity demonstrations across the country will show the potential power of the working class and also help to raise consciousness about the role of police as defenders of big business interests.
Brutal police repression of Occupy Oakland, including the hospitalization of Iraq War veteran Scott Olson after his skull was fractured by a tear gas canister fired by the police, led to a huge upsurge of the struggle in Oakland. A 1500 strong general assembly in Oakland called for a general strike in response to this severe repression. Occupy Oakland’s turn to the workers' movement to fight back against police repression and the attempt of the state to crack down on the movement was absolutely correct.
Almost everywhere, the occupation movement has faced police interference and intimidation, if not outright violence and repression. Debates about how to respond are widespread. Again and again, where the occupy movement has stood firm against police repression, making bold appeals for solidarity, victories have been won.
In Oakland, where anger at police brutality is especially raw after several high profile police murders, including the murder of Oscar Grant, the movement has forced Democratic mayor Jean Quan to make a complete policy reversal. After the mayor ordering a massive late-night police raid of the encampment (renamed “Oscar Grant” plaza), using helicopters, rubber bullets, riot police and tear gas, Occupy Oakland re-claimed the initiative by organizing big demonstrations the following day.
When the skull of Iraq War veteran Scott Olson was shattered by a police projectile, widespread public outrage forced Mayor Quan to publicly announce a reduced police presence, allow the occupation to continue, and give city workers permission to take the day off work on November 2nd for the strike action protesting her administration!
General Strike and the Unions
This general strike call was taken up by many union activists, and began to get support in the labor movement, starting with a Carpenter’s local and then spreading to the ILWU (dockworkers union). However, most union leaders have not shown the same commitment to take decisive action. Given the weakness of US trade unions at the moment and the role of the pro-capitalist leadership of most of the unions, calls for a general strike by the occupation movement will not be enough, in most cases, for serious, wide-spread strike action. It would take a concerted drive by union activists in Oakland to compel union leaders to prepare a serious, all-out strike. and preparing the ground to re-develop the union movement in Oakland and around the US on the basis of militant, democratic principles.
But this general strike call in response to the vicious attack by the police on Occupy Oakland could become a turning point for the whole occupy movement. The police violence, the huge sympathy for the occupy movement and the inspiration a lot of trade union activists get from it – all of this came together to trigger the call for a strike action. Workers need to organize committees and caucuses in the workplaces and unions, even calling them workplace General Assemblies, in order to spread this movement to the broader working class.
The bold call for a general strike by Occupy Oakland propels the entire occupy movement in a powerful direction by appealing to the collective strength of workers and youth to shut down corporations, government institutions and “business as usual” in society as a whole. Nationally coordinated strikes, student walkouts and other forms of direct action, all on a mass scale, will be necessary to break the power of Wall Street, big business and their two political parties. Even if, as is likely, the strike call in Oakland only draws out a minority of workers and youth, it could spur forward the movement on a national level.
A whole number of unions and labor organizations have endorsed Occupy Oakland's call for a general strike. For the most part the unions have not themselves called for strikes. Instead union leaders have encouraged their members to take personal or sick days to join the demonstrations (see endorsement statements republished below). However, substantial student walkouts are planned in high schools and colleges.
Going forward, the unions in particular need to seize the moment. Mass resistance by the 99% against the 1% through building major national actions to stop the budget cuts, layoffs, and other attempts to make working people pay for the economic crisis is the way to build this movement. In coordination with the occupy movement, community organizations, and left groups, organized labor has an historic opportunity to stop the corporate attacks. The general strike call in Oakland should be viewed as an example of what is possible.
Labor Support for Oakland General Strike
Below we republish a number of the solidarity statements and calls to action in solidarity with Occupy Oakland and their call for a general strike and protests on November 2nd. In part to avoid legal repercussions, none of the unions have officially called their members out on strike. Anti-union laws ban political strikes or solidarity strikes. Socialist Alternative and many on the left believe union leaders must be prepared to defy such anti-union laws. Most unions in the Oakland area who are endorsing the strike call are not actually organizing coordinated work stoppages or mass walkouts, which would be necessary steps in a real general strike. Instead they are encouraging their members, where possible, to use more limited legal methods such as to leaving work and joining the protests.
ILWU Local 10: Defend Occupy Oakland with the muscle of organized labor
Demonstrators in downtown Oakland protesting the bank-driven economic crisis were brutally attacked by police from 18 Bay Area agencies on Tuesday, October 25. Mayor Quan, who was supported by ILWU Local 10 in the recent elections, ordered this bloody assault.
Cops used potentially lethal weapons to break up the occupation of Frank Ogawa (now renamed Oscar Grant) Plaza just as they did in the port against antiwar protesters in 2003. That police attack was even criticized by the UN Human Rights Commission and ended up costing Oakland over $2 million in civil suits.
Then-Local 10 longshoreman Billy Kepo'o was hit in the hand by a police tear gas canister causing a bloody mess. Now, Iraqi war vet Scott Olsen was hit in the head with a police projectile, causing a fracture and putting him in critical condition in Highland Hospital.
This is exactly what killed one of the strikers in Seattle in the Big Strike of 1934. That history of police violence against strikers is why our Local 10 Constitution bans cops from membership in our union.
Last year, Local 10 shut down all ports to protest the police killing of young Oscar Grant. This year ILWU has been supporting Occupy Wall Street. Just last Monday the San Francisco Labor Council declared the Occupy San Francisco and Occupy Wall Street "sanctioned union strike lines" offering the protesters an umbrella of union protection.
ILWU is under attack from PMA employers, not just here in the port of Oakland but especially in Longview, Washington. Our jobs and the survival of the ILWU as a fighting union are at stake. We heard the report of our Longview Local 21 brothers at our union meeting last week and we pledged our solidarity, just as we did for other unions under attack, whether in Charleston, South Carolina or Madison, Wisconsin.
At the same time there is an outrage at the bankers and the capitalist crisis which has caused massive hardship on the working class. Occupy Oakland protesters have called for a General Strike on November 2. Whether this actually means real strike action by workers depends in large part on union participation.
Local 10 has always been in the lead in the labor movement and all eyes are on us. As a first step, in defending our union and others against economic and political repression, we need to mobilize our members to participate in the rally and occupation November 2 in Oscar Grant Plaza. Shut it down!
Signed: Anthony Leviege ILWU #9576, Ronnie Armour #9922, Troy Bell #9837, Tremaine Waters #9202, Richard Washington #9402, Anthony Manning #9986, Odis Rucker #9811, Robert Grissom #101284, Jack Heyman #8780 (ret.), Samantha Levens (S.F. IBU), Robert Irminger (S.F. IBU), Howard Keylor #220447 (ret.), Clarence Thomas #8718
Carpenters Local 713 resolution in support of Occupy Oakland
Local 713 of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters stands in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement. We support the right of all working people to organize and peacefully assemble to demand their rights.
We further agree that the 1 percent should not continue to go untaxed while the 99 percent face layoffs, pay and benefit cuts, foreclosures and the closing of our children's schools and our public services.
We further strongly condemn the police brutality used against the Occupy Oakland movement and the devastating injury inflicted on Iraq veteran Scott Olsen. We further resolve to support the call of the 2,000 Oaklanders at Occupy Oakland for a one-day strike in Oakland for Wednesday November 2nd, 2011, to protest our country's rising inequality and the brutal actions of the police in the city of Oakland, California.
A message from Oakland Education Association President Betty Olson-Jones
In a unanimous vote on October 28, 2011, the OEA Executive Board endorsed Occupy Oakland's November 2 "General Strike/Mass Day of Action" and is urging members to participate in a variety of ways, including taking personal leave to join actions at Frank Ogawa Plaza, doing informational picketing at school sites, and holding teach-ins on the history of general strikes and organizing for economic justice.
Faced with growing class sizes and dwindling resources, school closures, and the ongoing attempts of charter management companies to entice Oakland schools to convert to charters, it is critical that we link our struggles with those of the 99 percent of Americans fighting for social and economic justice. It is simply wrong that banks and corporations are bailed out and continue to reap huge profits, while schools and social services suffer.
Join us on November 2nd, in solidarity with Occupy Movements across the globe!
WE ARE THE 99 percent!
Why the Oakland Education Association Supports Occupy Oakland's Mass Day of Action/General Strike*
-- Occupy Oakland and the Worldwide Occupy Movement are fighting for full funding for all social services, including public schools.
-- Many of our members have been actively participating in the Occupy Oakland movement, and at least three were injured in the October 25 crackdown, along with a number of other union activists.
-- On Wednesday, October 26, the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) School Board voted to shutter five schools in Oakland. Unless we build a movement to demand that the top 1 percent pay their fair share, more school closures will follow.
-- The Alameda Central Labor Council, which represents unions from all over Oakland, including the OEA, has voted to endorse Occupy Oakland.
-- Occupy Oakland is a model of democracy in action where everyone is free to express their view and where everyone has one vote regardless of wealth or influence.
-- Because of the violent and unprovoked crackdown against the peaceful protest on Tuesday, October 25, Oakland has garnered worldwide publicity and attention. Oakland educators need to be seen on the frontlines of the fight for progressive taxation and full funding for public schools and other public services.
*Wednesday's action is not an OEA-sanctioned strike against OUSD
SEIU Local 1021, representing Oakland city workers, put out the following statement of support for Occupy Oakland, alongside a call to action for November 2nd.
The Occupy movement has the same vision and goals SEIU has been advocating for the last two years ― that the Wall Street speculators and the major banks crashed our economy with their reckless greed and that ever since then, they have been trying to transfer the blame and the costs onto the other 99 percent by attacking workers’ pay, healthcare and pensions; by slashing what remains of the social safety net; by foreclosing on our homes and our opportunities for a better future; by ruining our neighborhoods, schools and cities; and by otherwise widening the income gap and transferring wealth from the bottom to the top.
Like public employees everywhere, SEIU 1021 members have been main targets of this transfer. Throughout northern California, and especially in Oakland, our wages, benefits and pensions have been cut to deal with the deficits created by their crisis.
“We are also part of the 99 percent,” said Dwight McElroy, president of the SEIU 1021 Oakland chapter. “Our jobs have been cut, our people unemployed, and our community has lost needed services in these hard times.”
This perspective is now rooted in people’s own experience. The Occupy movement has given wide public expression to this discontent, and is demanding change with new forms of dissent and community. SEIU 1021 is proud to join and endorse the movement, and will be bringing material support to its efforts.
Within our jurisdiction, SEIU 1021 members have taken part in local Occupy Wall Street actions in San Francisco, Sacramento, Oakland, Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Ukiah and elsewhere.
“The labor movement has always fought to keep free speech and the right to assemble as 24/7 Constitutional rights,” McElroy said. “We expect Mayor Quan and any mutual aid effort to respect that at Oscar Grant [Frank Ogawa] Plaza.”
SEIU 1021 stands in support of Occupy Oakland and the city and people of Oakland in our common fight for a fair economy and socially just society.
SEIU Local 1021 Call to Action
The SEIU 1021 Executive Board calls on all members of SEIU 1021 to join a day-long “Peaceful Day of Action” in support of Occupy Oakland and against the banking industry and last week’s police brutality against the Occupy Oakland encampment.
To avoid misinterpretation: Occupy Oakland has called for a “general strike,” but SEIU 1021 is not asking any members to “go on strike” ― that would be a violation of many SEIU 1021 contracts. Instead, we encourage members to use legitimate time off to stand in support of Occupy Oakland and join the day’s events at the “Peaceful Day of Action.”
City of Oakland Workers: The City has agreed that workers may use a day of comp time, vacation time, a floating holiday or leave without pay in order to participate.
Other SEIU 1021 Members: We encourage all members to work with their employers constructively to find a way to take the day off in order to participate.
The Alameda Central Labor Council supports the November 2 Day of Action
Sisters and Brothers,
Excitement is continuing to build nationally and worldwide for the "Occupy Movement"! Workers, students, unemployed, homeless, seniors, those who have lost their homes to foreclosures and those who have lost their jobs--the 99 percent--are standing up and fighting back against the 1 percent!
We are experiencing the results of a failed economy and inability of the richest nation in the world to provide for the 99%. We know that the 1% is only getting greedier and richer. But, things are changing and this movement is catching fire.
Inspired by the spirit of the fight against Wall Street, the Alameda Labor Council urges all union members and your families to join us as we stand in solidarity with Occupy Oakland on Wednesday, November 2. This Day of Action on November 2 will be a public demonstration of support for the right to peaceably assemble without interference, and against the growing wealth and income inequality created by Wall Street and the actions of the richest 1%.
Individual unions and your members are encouraged to express solidarity in whatever form you find appropriate. These are some options for Nov. 2:
1. At your worksite. Before work or during lunch, come together to talk about the Occupy Wall Street movement. Wear "We are the 99 percent" stickers.
2. Noon Bank action. Meet at Oakland City Hall and join a Wells Fargo Bank action.
3. Mobilization at 5 p.m. Labor's focus will be to turn out for this mobilization. We will converge at the Frank Ogawa Plaza at City Hall to join with Occupy Oakland.
Wear your union shirts and be visible so Occupy Oakland knows that labor is standing with them.
At 7 p.m., the Alameda Labor Council with our affiliates will be hosting a "cook out" and serving dinner to all in attendance.
Statement of solidarity with Occupy Oakland from the Campaign to End the New Jim Crow
The Campaign to End the New Jim Crow stands in solidarity with Occupy Oakland and denounces the brutal attack by the police on their encampment. Oakland is predominantly a city of people of color, and this assault--while not the first against the Occupy movement nationally--reached new levels of violence with stun grenades, tear gas and rubber bullets.
The attack by police in Oakland was aimed at those most victimized by the racial and economic violence in a city devastated by police brutality, foreclosures and unemployment. Carried out in Oscar Grant Park--renamed for a 2009 victim of a police murder--the raid underscored the depths of repression meted out against the poor and people of color.
We condemn this racist violence and pledge our solidarity and support with our brothers and sisters in Oakland both on the November 2 National Day of Action in solidarity with Occupy Oakland and beyond.
We further stand in support of the Occupy movement everywhere. The 1 percent has long prioritized building prisons, criminalizing people of color and policing our neighborhoods over the kinds of investments that sustain our communities: jobs, housing and social programs.
Nearly $70 billion is spent each year to keep people in cages and in the grip of the prison and parole systems, institutions that only perpetuate economic injustice through the collateral consequences of a felony conviction and the new Jim Crow. A society where the majority of those behind bars, where the disproportionate number of those unemployed, hungry and without fundamental rights are people of color, speaks for itself: this is a world we are struggling to transform.
The 99 percent are the incarcerated and the formerly incarcerated, the victims of racism and the police, the unemployed and the evicted. We ALL stand to win when these injustices are uprooted. The Campaign to End the New Jim Crow is in solidarity with the Occupy movement everywhere and joins the resistance to the 1 percent who aim to destroy our lives.
United Auto Workers 2865 Resolution in Support of Occupy Oakland General Strike
Whereas United Auto Workers 2865 witnesses firsthand how the 1 percent (in the form of UC Regents and top UC executives) conspire to steal ever more from students and workers through repeated tuition hikes, reduced services, layoffs, increased workloads, outsourcing and other austerity measures; and
Whereas we stand for the rights of all people to living wage jobs with affordable health care, quality education, a voice on the job, fair housing and a well-funded public sector, and
Whereas: Unemployment is the highest it has been since the Great Depression, and people are staying unemployed longer now than in the Great Depression, 1/3 of California homes are underwater, 1/5 of the foreclosures nation-wide are in California, and San Franciscans alone have lost almost $6 billion in home value costing their city over $74 million, and
Whereas: Occupy Wall Street is a people-powered movement that began on September 17, 2011 in Manhattan's Financial District, and has spread to over 100 cities in the United States and actions in over 1,500 cities globally. The movement is inspired by popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, and the Wisconsin protests earlier this year, and aims to expose how the richest 1% of people are writing the rules of an unfair global economy that is foreclosing on our future, and
Whereas: the Occupy Wall Street has galvanized public sentiment and a broad-based movement protesting the corrosive power of major banks and multinational corporations over the democratic process, and the role of Wall Street in creating an economic collapse that has caused the greatest recession in generations, and
Whereas: the National AFL-CIO and Change to Win coalitions have endorsed Occupy Wall Street, a growing number of trade union activists have joined this movement, both as individual workers, and as part of an increasing number of International and Local union contingents connecting their own fights to the larger demands of the movement for economic justice and fairness, and
Whereas: Union and Community organizations together have been working in coalition since the crash of the economy to force Banks to pay for public services and to renegotiate predatory loans with home owners, governments, and non-profit agencies, and
Whereas: public safety officers have used excessive force against peaceful protesters at Oscar Grant (Frank Ogawa) Plaza and violated their first amendment rights when more than 500 public safety officers with firearms aimed at the occupiers, tore down their tents in a predawn raid on October 25; and
Whereas: public safety officers on the evening of Oct. 25 again used excessive force injuring and endangering the lives of demonstrators when they marched on the evening of October 25th to protest the violence against the occupiers that morning;
Therefore be it resolved that this union will encourage its members and allies to act in support of Nov. 2 actions and honors as a "Sanctioned Union Strike Line" Occupy Oakland and Occupy Wall Street, encourages union members and Local unions to participate in the movement, will actively support any unionized or non-unionized worker who refuses to break up, "raid," or confiscate the belongings of protesters, and calls on unions representing DPW workers to not participate in such activity, and
Be it further resolved that this union and its allies stand with our sisters and brothers of Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Oakland, and cities and towns across the country who are fed up with an unfair economy that works for 1% of Americans while the vast majority of people struggle to pay the bills, get an education, and raise their families, and
Be it further resolved that UAW 2865 recognizes that protest movements, like strike lines and organizing campaigns, do not have curfews, are not 9-5 activities, and in doing so UAW 2865 recognizes and will work to protect the right for Occupy Oakland to protest 24 hours a day, on-site and with proper protection including food, medical supplies, water, and tents, and
Be it further resolved that UAW 2865 has endorsed and will continue to endorse and turn-out members to Occupy Oakland rallies and events, to provide in-kind donations like tents and food, and
Be it finally resolved that UAW 2865 joins its sister unions in the UC Berkeley Labor Coalition in forwarding this resolution for adoption to other local unions and central labor bodies.
Berkeley Federation of Teachers Calls on All Members to Mobilize November 2nd at Occupy Oakland
BFT stands in solidarity with Occupy Oakland and its advocacy on behalf of the 99 percent. Occupy Oakland and the Worldwide Occupy Movement are fighting to restore sanity to our economy and to oppose growing wealth inequality.
We call upon all BFT members to participate in the November 2nd Day of Action at Occupy Oakland. It is incredibly important that teachers and union members take part in this historic mobilization.
We are encouraging our members to participate in the Wednesday, November 2nd Day of Action in the following ways:
1. Wear your BFT T-shirt on Wednesday in solidarity with Occupy Oakland. Wear the "We Are the 99 percent" sticker that you will be offered by your site rep.
2. Attend the Occupy Oakland late afternoon action. We are asking BFT members to meet between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. at the State Building at 1515 Clay Street. Bring signs and wear your BFT T-shirt. If you come after 5 p.m. please look for the BFT banner and join our group.
3. Look for ways to incorporate information and activities about the history of organizing efforts against economic injustice into your lessons on Wednesday. If possible, also look for ways members can come together on this day, maybe at lunch, to talk about the Occupy Wall Street movement.
4. Attend the solidarity barbecue hosted by the Alameda Labor Council at p.m. at Frank Ogawa Plaza.
BFT is aware that Occupy Oakland has called for a General Strike, as well as a Day of Action, on November 2nd. We have a no strike clause in our contract, so BFT is attempting to reach an agreement with BUSD to allow members to use personal leave, as long as there is adequate sub coverage, to attend ALL Occupy Oakland events on November 2nd. We will update members and site reps as soon as we have news on that effort.
Please note that the Occupy movement is very fluid. We will do our best to keep members updated.
President, Berkeley Federation of Teachers
* The above statements and resolutions are all either republished from socialistworker.org or the respective websites of the said organizations.