Sting, whose fame first took off as a member of the Police (a punk, reggae, and jazz band), continues to surprise us. He now has a show on Broadway, The Last Ship, which deals with his childhood in the North of England where shipbuilding was the only industry, had employed thousands, but was coming to an end.
As we await a step in resolving the Pen/Ben public employees crisis, plans for strengthening AC’s economy, and an approach to increasing jobs, we are reminded of how over the years so much of our New Jersey manufacturing came to an end, jobs were sent off-shore and gradually both public and private unions were weakened. The lives of so many New Jerseyans have been devastated – people who worked hard with great pride only to find themselves jobless.
The message of three years ago from the Occupy movement lives on. Occupy Wall Street vilified the top one per cent for hauling in so much money during the very recession that tossed so many people out onto the street. It focussed on inequality of the other 99%, greed, and the power of corporations.
In Part I of this series we looked at the high inequality in New Jersey with its billionaires and “super salaries.” In Part II we reviewed what Americans say about the inequality gap, some of the causes, the very political nature of the subject, and some steps we can take in New Jersey to increase the income of those who are not wealthy.
In Part III we focus on the role of corporations and smaller businesses and their minimal effort in reducing inequality. Even a soaring stock market has been insufficient help. We look at how little the NJ median hourly wage has increased and the small but important impact of increasing the State minimum wage. In summary we see the corporate world mirroring today’s broader world with its staggeringly high inequality. No great hope for change here.
There’s a song at the end of this. I’ll dedicate it to women in NJ’s labor movement.
Today is the 100th anniversary of one of the most important moments in labor history, in women’s history, and in American history. From AFL-CIO blog:
The Bread and Roses Strike
On Jan. 12, 1912, some 25,000 workers at the mills of the American Woolen Company in Lawrence walked off the job when the company cut their pay-already a mere $8 a week for the men, and less for the women and children-after the state legislature passed a law shortening the length of their workweek from 56 hours to 54 hours. Workers stayed off the job for months, enduring beatings from police and the Massachusetts militia, who spared not even women and children.
Massachusetts, not New Jersey. Yes, this is outside our coverage area, same as when I took note of the 100th Anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire (NYC). A history professor at University of Massachusetts calls Bread and Roses “the first Occupy”– “the 99% against the 1% of 1912.” Income disparity drives the Occupy movement, now a crossroads. And Labor is in flux, weakened in some states as historic collective bargaining rights are being challenged to varying degree. Wisconsin. Indiana. Ohio. New Jersey. There’s something in the story of this strike – led by women, and successful – that’s still inspiring. Especially to women.
When I was very young, one of my mother’s friends in the school integration movement outside Detroit (where we lived) gave her a song – Bread and Roses – she said reminded her of me: Bread and Roses. An amazing song, Judy Collins’ silvery soprano and Mimi Farina’s liquidy mezzo. And it’s about the best compliment I ever had.
Late-night musical bonus. Listen – under the fold.
Conventional wisdom says that one way to defeat Congressman Jon Runyan this year is to fight fire with fire. That is, instead of the Democrats standing up a run-of-the-mill politician against Runyan, they should nominate a celebrity. The thinking is that there’s really no one in the Burlington/Ocean county political establishment that has the name recognition, fundraising ability, and gravitas to compete with the ex-NFL “bad boy” and his bottomless source of campaign funds from the corporatists.
There is a celebrity athlete in Runyan’s congressional district – one who has dabbled in politics before., and can be orders of magnitude better than Runyan. Olympian Carl Lewis ran for state senate last year, only to be denied the opportunity to serve because a judge ruled that the long-time New Jerseyan did not strictly fit the residency requirements.
Our own NJ Occupy Trenton shares those messages of income inequality, a need for jobs and a reform of both political and corporate structures. However, so far participants have not transferred those concerns into an agenda and action that might achieve change. As a result they still lack the actual support of sufficient bodies, funds, and skills to sustain and grow their movement.
What helped OT the most was the attention its members received over the illegal State Trooper confiscation of property, which for the moment increased dramatically their livestream viewership. Also the court hearing which reaffirmed their rights and brought about the return of the property proved beneficial. In the case of OWS the police inspector who pepper-sprayed innocent women and Monday’s late night heavy-handed police park assault likewise re-energized occupiers and gained them new supporters.
In the case of OT the few number of participants at the memorial at any one time have allowed them to escape harsher treatment from authorities. Also without having undertaken any significant direct actions they are viewed more as an irritant than as a serious threat to the power structure across the street and the corporate lobbyists in the neighborhood.
Today at 12:00 in their headquarters at the WWII Memorial Park they plan a National Day Of Action Jobs Rally with speakers from the Northwest NJ Peace Fellowship, New Jersey Work Environment Council, NJ State Industrial Union Council, Coalition for Peace Action, and MoveOn.org. For more information on the event go here.
This event today can bring more attention to the problems. Perhaps it will also be a step that energizes them and new supporters to bring about the changes they seek. The biggest challenge OT faces is not what damage the power structure may inflict upon them but whether their actions make the power of their ideas powerful enough to galvanize more supporters and achieve meaningful results for New Jerseyans. Time is not on their side. Rather than falling into the complacency of maintaining a movement and risking a decline, they have an opportunity to rise to the moment – a time for action.
We’re hearing via Twitter hashtag #OccupyColleges that there are student strikes, teach-ins and other events planned for Thursday at schools all over the country.
Students have listed 32 participating colleges and universities at the website www.occupycolleges.org. Unlike other campus-based Occupy solidarity events, Thursday’s actions will be focused on issues specifically impacting students; tuition increases, financial aid and the ‘diminishing quality of education and student services’. You can read more of what’s planned here.
I don’t see any New Jersey schools listed. If you’re a NJ student planning to participate, we’d love a heads-up.
Means government for the rich Is what we’re up against
Keep everyone else in the ditch And you can’t stay on the fence
in Congress and in State House halls Becase we’re losing this class war
They vote the way /the money calls And the rich are taking more and more
Words and music by Bennet D. Zurofsky (Attorney, Musician & Progressive)
After a stop in Princeton, OWS marchers on their journey to DC arrived in Trenton and spent the night at Occupy Trenton’s new Tent City. Earlier in the evening Sam was the lone participant keeping the fire burning in front of of the just opened venue. On the City Planning workgroup he has sketched out ideas on designing the layout for the camp. He would like to see separate tents for media use, library, GA/workgroup meetings, kitchen, sleeping and more. To maintain 24/7 the two venues – across from the State House and at the park – will require more donations, on-site volunteers, planners, and people knowledgeable about urban camping. Tent City, in the shadow of the Trenton Battle Monument, is in North 25 Park at North Warren St. near Tucker St.
Earlier in the afternoon at the WWII Memorial Bennet Zurofsky served as the impromptu resident musician playing and singing such songs as No More, Plutocracy, and This Little Light of Mine. Working with the ACLU and lawyer David Perry Davis, attorney Zurofsky is the lead lawyer in the Mercer County Court case which upheld the rights of the occupiers and resulted in the return of their confiscated property. Another court review of the injunction is scheduled for December 19. (Docket C-72-11)
Later in front of the tent fire progressive Zurofsky commented that the occupy movement is changing the conversation from reducing the debt to reducing income disparity. “There is fear on the part of establishment power that they will have to give back. But as Brecht said, ‘First you have to feed the people; then you worry about the rest.’ Many today are without a home or a job and feel there is no place for them in society.” He emphasized that it is important that more of us get out, volunteer our time and skills, and support the occupy movement.
Another song played by Zurofsky was Vicky Ryder’s (adapted by the Solidarity Singers) No More:
You bankers and you CEOs Today we pledge to occupy
You used us all to make your dough. This land you think that you can buy
Today your time is up; you’ve got to go! You’ve robbed us blind, you’ve bled us dry
Today we say no more! Today we say no more!
Occupy Trenton provides livestreaming of their two venues at their website. Come and join them. You can follow the progress of the OWS march to Washington at NYCMarch2DC.
This is Scott Olsen. Marine. Iraq War veteran. Shot in the head by a police projectile in a raid of Occupy Oakland, California authorized by the city’s mayor.
The raid, chaotic and harsh, was almost immediately televised via live stream to Occupy cities around the world, and later seen on commercial television. I posted the video below. The mayor authorized the crackdown, in which Marine Olsen was injured, and then she left town. She denies her men used rubber bullets or flashbang grenades. But his injury is consistent with a head injury caused by a projectile known less lethal bullets, which are used by police in riot guns used to disperse crowds.
Olsen has had brain surgery. He can move, and he can write, but he still cannot speak. He was wearing a Veterans for Peace shirt when the insult came to his brain on the streets of Oakland. Veterans for Peace.
There is something wrong here.
I started off writing a post about how it’s easier and more emotionally satisfying to wave the flag on exactly two days a year – Veterans Day and Memorial Day – and think of vets for about 12 minutes and be done. I mean no disrespect to local observances of those events; I attend my local events every year, and my town’s events mean a great deal to their organizers and to me. But the diary I started off writing was about how we don’t listen to vets enough. My best day in Washington D.C. is going to the WWII memorial, scouting around for really old guys, and asking them questions. Ditto, the Vietnam Memorial there, and some of my best conversations have started off having to listen, again, to why Jane Fonda’s a commie. If you can get past that, it is an enriching and illuminating conversation to listen to men and women tell you about their lives, and experiences. So different from those of us who never signed up, never got drafted.
There isn’t any better use for my tax dollars than to provide every advantage and leg up for people who helped build the country we now know. And that means paying quicker attention to medical needs specific to the wars we’ve sent them to – Agent Orange and its destruction to the bodies of Vietnam vets. Loneliness in WWII and Korea vets whose friends are gone. Head injuries, mental stress, and suicide risk for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.
But we’re not listening hard enough to our Scott Olsens, either. Or to people like Marine Sergeant Shamar who confronted NYPD officers at Occupy Wall Street, and now is calling for former Marines to don civilian uniform and join the Occupy protests as OccupyMARINES
Bill Orr just wrote about the gathering that will bring together Occupy Wall Street participants with those at Occupy Trenton, vets and peace activists. It’s where Scott Olsen would be today if he was well. He’d be wearing that Veterans for Peace shirt.
As more veterans begin to return to their homes in New Jersey, they face grim job prospects, a weak economy, dysfunctional government and increasing wealth disparity. They will find strong support from the Occupation movement which is rapidly becoming a forceful countervailing voice for economic and governmental reform.
Occupy Wall Street Marchers on their way to Washington arrived in New Brunswick last night and plan to be at Occupy Trenton in the WWII Memorial across from the State House late this afternoon. Members of Occupy Princeton and Occupy New Brunswick along with other local organizations will be joining them in the march to Trenton. Some New Jerseyans, including the Coalition for Peace, are also planning to join OWS in their forward march on Saturday into Pennsylvania.
“Got Our Stuff Back!” Following court orders to return OT property confiscated by State Troopers, a truck arrived yesterday at 4:00 PM. Rather than bringing the items into the memorial, workers dumped them along a back road two flights of stairs up from the memorial. Some stuff, including an IMac computer, had been damaged. The process was documented by video.
“Got Our Tent City” OT received a permit for their tent city and started setting it up last night amidst the rain. They plan to have it available for use tonight by OWS marchers and as a second venue for their activities. The Trenton Battle Monument will also be the backdrop to OT’s second location where tents and other structures are allowed. It will add a workable space for a media outlet, for larger meetings, and for tired Occupiers to rest undisturbed. Tent City is located at North 25 Park (N. Warren St. near Tucker St.)
For the most up-to-date schedule information go to OT’s website or NYCMarch2DC. or twitter at #occupythehighway, or call OT at (609) 222-4790.