The American Spring took a huge step forward yesterday. In California, demonstrators successfully shut down the Port of Oakland in the morning and, by the evening, the companies that operate out of the port were calling the 7pm shift, and telling them not to come in. Some have suggested that the Occupy movement is doing itself a disservice with this action, and would say that a movement built around economic inequality cost a number of workers (fellow members of the 99%) their wages, by shutting down the port. The truth is, that if just one guy hoping to deliver to the port, had hopped in his one truck and challenged the picket line, the line could’ve been broken. Truth is sometimes found in what does not happen. The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) members are forbidden from striking, except in very limited circumstances. If the ILWU had formally endorsed Occupy Oakland’s shut down of the port, they could face jail time. Nothing was stopping them from getting in their trucks and going to work, except their own interests; by inaction, they sided with Occupy Oakland. In the end, the only vehicle to challenge the picket line at the port was a BMW.
In other news, Occupy Baltimore had its tents taken down yesterday, and the police are clearly going to move in anywhere that an encampment is set up. In a takeover of public property, the police have all the power, and they will treat the demonstrators like unruly children who’ve threatened to run away, and instead set up camp in their own backyard. The cops, like some parents, will tolerate the tent for a while, but the situation can’t go on forever, and both sides know it. By shutting down the Port of Oakland for the second time, the Occupy movement is showing the country that this is not child’s play; that the American Spring is not something to be written off as the work of drum circles, anarchists, and bored college students. They are reminding all of us that the words of Patrick Henry were not “give me liberty, but don’t let me lose a days wages”. The cranes that hovered empty and still over the Port of Oakland yesterday, paint a picture of the power and the solidarity of the 99%. The fifth largest port in the country, which brings in over 27 billion dollars a year, was shut down because CEO’s, who once earned roughly 30 times more than their employees, are now earning 110 times more. The Port of Oakland was shut down because the average income of the top 1% has gone up by more than 250%, while the incomes of Americans have gone down by at least six percent…for those Americans lucky enough to have a job.
No one is buying the old line that if we get out of the way of the “job creators” and let them make money, hand over fist, some of that cash will eventually trickle down to the rest of us. The banks received a 7 trillion dollar bailout and made a 13 billion dollar profit off of the money the taxpayers loaned them in 2008, but that money has failed, quite spectacularly, the trickle-down test; the only thing that trickled down were foreclosures, not new loans. The Bush tax cuts for the wealthy have been extended year after year, and the Republicans running for President are practically tripping over themselves trying to offer more tax breaks for corporations, but cozying up to the so-called job creators hasn’t led to job creation in the past, it’s only led to larger deficits, and more out-sourcing of jobs. The corporations take the money from these tax cuts, and buy a machine that does the work of 3 people, or build a new factory in a part of the world where labor is cheap; what they don’t do, is create jobs here.
I’m quite sure that the snarking at Occupy Oakland in the media will continue, and I’m also certain that some worker, somewhere, will be dredged up and thrown forward, like Joe the Plumber 2.0, as the voice of the little guy just trying to do a days work, who was inconvenienced by the Occupy movement. But the voice of Occupy Oakland spoke yesterday with the sound of idling trucks…trucks that didn’t cross the picket line…and showed just how big the little guys can actually be when they stand together.
Sarah Warden is the author of the novel Three Fifths of Love available as an ebook from amazon http://www.amazon.com/Three-Fifths-Love-Marriage-ebook/dp/B005EZ3QU2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1318174116&sr=8-1
Image by Ingrid Taylar (Flickr: Port of Oakland) [CC-BY-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons