Occupy movements and trades unions take action in the US

Locked-out Teamsters art handlers at Sotheby’s picket the company’s headquarters in London last month
Locked-out Teamsters art handlers at Sotheby’s picket the company’s headquarters in London last month

‘We are the 99 per cent. We are getting kicked out of our homes. We are forced to choose between groceries and rent,’ says an Occupy Wall Street website inviting people to tell their stories.

It adds: ‘We are denied quality medical care. We are suffering from environmental pollution.

‘We are working long hours for little pay and no rights, if we’re working at all. We are getting nothing while the other one per cent is getting everything. We are the 99 per cent.’

Occupy Wall Street said on Wednesday: ‘It is a better day for the 99 per cent in Ohio.

‘Yesterday on Tuesday, November 8th, Ohio voters overwhelmingly Repealed Senate Bill 5.

‘The bill, just passed by the Ohio legislature in March, removed the ability of public employees to engage in one of the most fundamental rights known to working people — collective bargaining.

‘Occupy Cincinnati was active in this struggle.’

Occupy Cincinnati said: ‘Ohio voters sent Governor John Kasich a clear message about restricting public union rights and denying their right to strike.

‘SB5, the bill he initiated last spring, was struck down by a 60 per cent to 39 per cent margin.

‘We, the people have spoken. This movement is not going away.’

Jackie DiSalvo, a member of Occupy Wall Street’s Labour working group said: ‘Occupy Cincinnati was among the thousands of people fighting for the referendum.

‘Proposition 2 was supported by Americans for Prosperity, heavily funded by right-wing billionaire, David Koch, and Senate Bill 5 was designed by ALEC, the Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council, which brings together legislators with the one per cent.

‘At the same time, we have been motivated by struggles like the fights to defend labour rights in Ohio.’

The Ohio Teamsters’ leadership said the defeat of Senate Bill 5 showed that Ohio voters support collective bargaining.

SB5 would have stripped more than 350,000 public workers of nearly all their collective bargaining rights.

‘On behalf of all Ohio Teamsters and organised labour, the citizens of Ohio sent a message to Governor Kasich and the Koch brothers, “Keep your hands off our rights to collectively bargain”,’ said William Lichtenwald, president of Teamsters Local 20 in Cincinnati and the Ohio Conference of Teamsters.

‘I hope the politicians in Columbus wake up and start listening to the middle class and looking out for our interests as opposed to corporate interests,’ said Randy Verst, president of Teamsters Joint Council 26 in Cincinnati.

‘Extreme politicians tried to shift the burden of the economic crisis to the middle class,’ said Al Mixon, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 507 in Cleveland and a Teamsters International vice-president.

‘They tried to destroy our basic right to freedom of speech, the freedom to negotiate, the freedom to have a voice in the workplace.

‘SB5 doesn’t just affect labour, it affects everybody. If they take away our basic rights, then they’ll take away everybody’s.

‘Fortunately, Ohioans have come together to defeat this bad legislation. We won’t get fooled again.’

Gary Tiboni, president of Teamsters Local 436 in Valley View said: ‘This isn’t just a big victory for the Teamster snowplough drivers, corrections officers and nurses who work for the State of Ohio.

‘It’s a big victory for Ohio’s middle-class workers,’ said Tiboni, who is also president of Joint Council 41.

Teamsters General President James P Hoffa said: ‘Ohio voters just sent a wake-up call to American politicians: “If you try to blame workers for problems caused by Wall Street, you will pay a price. If you attack workers, you will lose. And if you stand up and fight for the middle class, you will win.”

‘John Kasich thought he could get away with blaming workers for a budget deficit caused by Wall Street greed.

‘He was dead wrong. Now he’s one of the most unpopular governors in the country.

‘Ohio voters understand that nurses and snowplough drivers and firefighters don’t go to work for the government to get rich.

‘Ohioans showed on Tuesday that they won’t stand for attacks on middle-class workers. I’m sure they’re no different from voters in any other state.

‘For the first time in history, collective bargaining for government workers was approved in a statewide ballot.

‘This election shows the public supports workers’ right to form a union in order to bargain with their employer. It’s a huge victory for all middle-class working families in Ohio.

‘The Teamsters are grateful to the voters of Ohio for their support. And I’m proud of the Teamsters who worked so hard to collect signatures and to get out the vote.

‘Most of the 55,000 Teamsters in Ohio work for private companies, but they showed tremendous solidarity with their fellow Teamsters who work for the government and with all public workers.’

About 100 protesters from Occupy Wall Street joined a Teamsters picket line at the Sotheby’s auction house in Manhattan on Wednesday night to back the union in an important battle to fight wage cuts.

The action, called OCCUPY SOTHEBY’S, picketed the ‘one per cent’, in support of locked-out Teamsters art handlers at one of the biggest art auctions of the year.

A contingent of New York University students, faculty and alumni met at 5.00pm, by the fountain in Washington Square Park.

Sotheby’s, the art auction house for the very wealthy, has locked out its union art handlers for the last three months.

The company is demanding wage and benefit cuts and the replacement of good union jobs with part-time, temp jobs.

Calling for a big turnout, Occupy Wall Street said: ‘Sotheby’s clearly has the money to maintain good jobs. The company made $688 million in profits last year, and CEO Bill Ruprecht takes home $60,000 a day.

‘Wednesday’s auction is one of the two biggest of the year, where Sotheby’s makes the bulk of their money.

‘Four pieces of art alone are expected to sell for $50 million. Please join us in supporting Teamsters Local 814’s fight against corporate greed — a concrete struggle of the 99 per cent against the one per cent.’