Unions Start Paying Attention to Occupy Wall Street

The number of protesters is set to grow with addition of at least nine unions

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Two weeks and one day in and the Occupy Wall Street protesters are getting some welcome attention: Unions. The small group will gain thousands of bodies over the next few days, reports Talking Points Memo's Carl Franzen. "The 'Occupy Wall Street' protests, now entering their third week, are poised to get a whole lot bigger than its core of 200 to 300 people, potentially even exceeding the protesters original goals of 20,000 demonstrators, thanks to recent pledges of support from some of New York City’s largest labor unions and community groups." Over the week the protests had gained some attention, attracting some non-media coverage-media coverage and celebrities, but the added bodies and money of these groups will both help legitimize and catalyze the movement.

The scrappy operation could gain thousands of bodies as unions join the protests on October 5. A slew of organized labor organizations has gotten involved in the planning, reports Crain's New York Business's Daniel Massey. "The United Federation of Teachers, 32BJ SEIU, 1199 SEIU, Workers United and Transport Workers Union Local 100 are all expected to participate. The Working Families Party is helping to organize the protest and MoveOn.org is expected to mobilize its extensive online regional networks to drum up support for the effort."

Not only do the Occupy Wall Streeters get bodies, but the movement gains the organizational skills and money of these groups. A group of at least nine unions repurposed a previously scheduled protest for the Occupy Wall Street movement. The New York Transit Workers Union, which voted unanimously to support the protests, put out a Tweet to its six hundred followers endorsing the march, Franzen noted. And the event has a Facebook page with 148 attending guests.

Initially these groups shied from joining because of the muddled message, but as the protesters have gotten more attention the groups see it as an opportunity. "Their fight is our fight," Strong Economy For All director Michael Kink told The Huffington Post. "They've chosen the right targets. We also want to see a society where folks other than the top 1 percent have a chance to say how things go." TWU Local 100's spokesman Jim Gannon seconded that sentiment. "Well, actually, the protesters, it's pretty courageous what they're doing," he told the Village Voice, "and it's brought a new public focus in a different way to what we've been saying along." Yet, the message of Occupy Wall Street certainly hasn't changed since its inception, so why now? Massey ventures a guess: "They are motivated perhaps by a sense of solidarity and a desire to tap into its growing success," he explains.  "But undoubtedly by something else too--embarrassment that a group of young people using Twitter and Facebook have been able to draw attention to progressive causes in a way they haven't been able to in years."

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