BOSTON - Organized labor teamed up with #OccupyBoston activists Thursday for a 3 p.m. rally at the Dewey Square encampment followed by a march to the Verizon Wireless store in Downtown Crossing to support Verizon workers in their fight for a union contract.
The event pulled in over 250 attendees and speakers from a host of area unions, including Boston telecom workers’ International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 2222, the Greater Boston Labor Council and Mass. Building Trades Council, the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, SEIU Locals 1199 and 615, the Mass. Nurses Association, and the New England Regional Council of Carpenters. Three labor-community coalitions - Community Labor United, Jobs with Justice and MassUniting - also helped organize the event.
Using an old-fashioned bullhorn, union leaders made common cause with the group they credited with spotlighting the role of Wall Street in destroying the economy and igniting a popular movement for social and economic justice. Greater Boston Labor Council executive secretary Rich Rogers said that “labor unions stand shoulder to shoulder with OccupyBoston.”
“On behalf of the nurses of Massachusetts, I want to say thank you to the courageous activists of Occupy Boston for standing up to corporate greed,” said Karen Coughlin, vice president of the Massachusetts Nurses Association. Frank Callahan, president of Mass Building Trades Council, said “We want to thank the people at OccupyBoston because we’re part of the 99 percent, just like you.”
1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East credited #OccupyBoston with putting a face on the 99 percent of Americans who are suffering the brunt of the economic crisis. “The 99 percent are our members,” said vice president at large Enid Eckstein. “They go to work every day, many working two or three jobs just to make ends meet.” She said that Boston labor groups had been organizing for years, but credited the movement for bringing the movement to the broader public. “Occupy Boston has forced America to look at itself,” she said.
“We’re not a bunch of rich college kids,” said an #OccupyBoston activist who reverted to the now-ubiquitous “people’s mike” to amplify his voice. “And we need to drive that home - especially to the Boston Herald!”
At 4:30 p.m. the mixed group of workers, students, and #OccupyBoston protestors marched up to Downtown Crossing, chanting “Hey, hey, ho-ho! Corporate greed has got to go!” and “What’s disgusting? Union Busting!” to the applause of rush-hour spectators on Washington Street. After rallying briefly outside Verizon Wireless, the march headed down Milk Street, chanting “We are the 99 percent.” In the shadow of the financial services firm BBH & Co., maintenance worker Fernando de la Rosa showed a rally leaflet to his co-workers. “I agree with that!” he said, watching the activists go by. He said he planned to attend a global rally scheduled for this Saturday.
At least two unions have already provided material support for the encampment. Eckstein said that the 1199 SEIU healthcare workers local is supporting the health and safety needs of the occupation, delivering supplies to its medic tent as recently as last Monday. Miles Calvey, financial secretary of IBEW Local 2222, said his union is taking up collections on its behalf and has begun providing drinking water.