Immediate prototypes for OWS are the British student protests of 2010, Greece’s and Spain’s anti-austerity protests of the ‘indignados’ (indignants), as well as the Middle East’s Arab Spring protests. OWS’ slogan, ‘We are the 99 percent’ refers to the growing income and wealth inequality in the U.S. between the wealthiest 1 percent and the rest of the population. It has since been used by similar Occupy protests and movements around the world.
Joining OWS marches
Education unions’ members were among the most active organisations helping OWS protesters. On 5 October, World Teachers’ Day, teacher unionists joined the tens of thousands of protesters marching through the financial district. The United Federation of Teachers (UFT), a member of EI affiliate American Federation of Teachers (AFT), was well represented.
In Washington, D.C., AFT members were among the crowd of hundreds gathered at McPherson Square on 17 November to support the Occupy D.C. movement. The latter had turned the public park not far from the White House into a tent city, even as other ‘Occupy’ sites around the country were being dismantled. The AFT contingent brought bags full of winter clothes, blankets and other items to help those camping at the park to stay warm as winter approaches.
AFT President, Randi Weingarten, underlined: “People are scared of the Occupy movement, or they wouldn’t be evicting protesters from New York City and other cities around the country. You can’t evict an idea. They can’t stop this movement, which is about respect and dignity. This is much bigger than tarps, tents and protesters in the park — this is the beginning of a movement for economic equity, and to hold the one percent accountable for the ever-growing chasm between this country’s haves and have-nots.”
Supporting fair taxation Bill
In November 2011, EI’s other affiliate in the US, the National Education Union (NEA), sent a letter to Senator Harkin and Representative DeFazio supporting their Wall Street Trading and Speculators Tax Act.
The letter states: “We would like to express our support for the Wall Street Trading and Speculators Tax Act. We thank you for your leadership on this legislation and your efforts to ensure that all pay their fair share toward economic recovery.”
Urging EI affiliates to seize the momentum, EI President Susan Hopgood called on “education unions to go on supporting citizen movements promoting social justice worldwide. Their goals are our goals. We need to build on their vitality to ensure a better future for our students.”