Unionists Embrace Wall Street Protesters

Even though top leadership of America's unions have endorsed the Occupy Wall Street movement, not many union members are turning out for North Texas Saturday events. What would happen, one might wonder, if the protesters came to the union halls?rachel talking to Local 848

We got our first good idea about this tactic when young "Rachel," who has been camping in downtown Dallas for the past week, visited UAW 848 for their October 16 membership meeting. She was the first thing on the agenda.

She spoke modestly, with great sincerity, for only a few minutes. She explained why she joined the protest: "Personally, I feel that there is very little hope for my future as things stay now." The rest of America is in trouble, too, she explained: "I don't have to tell you that the unions are in a lot of trouble." The problem and solution, expressed clearly and directly from someone less than half the age of her audience, is this: "Corprations are not Americans, but we are."

Rachel made it clear that she was not speaking for the other protesters, but only for herself. Even though they have no leaders and no structure, she explained that they have other strengths: "There is incredible kindness and generosity among us." She said that she expected to remain in the camp for the next two months. The applause erupted after her final simple comment, "I have made my decision to stand. I am not going to back down!"

So moved were the union members that they spontaneously passed a motion to take up a cash collection. Individuals were proud to talk with Rachel as she hurried to leave the union's business meeting. Committeeman John Kursteiner congratulated her on her bravery and asked directions to the encampment. Chaplain Jeff Benge handed Rachel $150 in cash as she left the union hall to rejoin the protest.

rachel with john kursteiner

Rachel has committed to appear on KNON radio's "Workers Beat" program, 89.3FM and www.knon.org, 7-8 AM on October 17.

What's next?

Unions and other organizations will find it easy to recruit speakers. Even though the encampments in downtown Fort Worth and Dallas have no actual spokespersons, almost all of them have a worthwhile story to tell and are willing to tell it.


Jeff Benge with Rachel