By Robert Schlesinger |
We don't speak for Occupy Wall Street, but we at the AFL-CIO are standing hand to hand with its followers. We have been inspired by their energy and creativity. I've personally been moved by the young people leading the way in this movement. And working people applaud the relentless focus on what (and who) truly threatens America, a gasping economy crashed by Wall Street elites.
While Occupy Wall Street is a powerful and unique movement that bears some similarity to the Tea Party, we think it is much more interesting how it is fundamentally different than similar.
Like the Tea Party, Occupy Wall Street was born from the failing economy. But the Tea Party's vision was always too narrowly focused on the flaws of the government to accurately reflect the desperate economic pain in this country.
What I hear from working people—whether they're union or not—is that they feel let down by our country, that the American Dream is disappearing before their eyes. Veterans who leave the military and then can't find work. Electricians who are trained in the latest technology but can't use it because we're not investing in our infrastructure. Teachers who are using textbooks that are more than 10 years old as their class sizes get bigger and bigger. Young people who have been labeled the "Lost Generation" because of how few jobs are available.
Meanwhile, Wall Street crashed our economy and is unapologetically now back to business as usual. Wall Street figured out a way to profit from its gambles, and when its schemes crumbled, the 99 percent of us paid the price. It's no wonder that people are angry and standing up to say, "Enough."
And what's most inspiring about Occupy Wall Street is that it's not divisive. It's not pitting worker against worker, community against community. It's about standing together to call out the people who are truly to blame for the mess that we're in and demanding they pay so the 99 percent of people can have a fair shake. That shouldn't be too much to ask for.
About Elizabeth Shuler Secretary Treasurer of the AFL-CIO
Robert Weissman President of Public Citizen
Reniqua Allen Schwartz Fellow at the New America Foundation
Douglas Schoen Democratic Campaign Consultant
Mark Meckler National Coordinator of Tea Party Patriots