A new people’s movement is being born before our eyes.
From its start in New York last month, the “Occupy Wall Street” movement has spread across the U.S. and now into Canada. Protests have been peaceful, but that hasn’t stopped the arrest of thousands in the U.S.
Clearly, many people are committed to having their say.
What they are saying is simple enough. Occupy Wall Street is calling for real solutions to the real problems of real people – problems like poverty. Joblessness. Homelessness. Hopelessness that is such a contrast to the big bonuses and wealth of New York’s financial district.
Occupy Wall Street is a call for good jobs, accessible public services, and fair taxation. Above all, it’s a protest against corporate greed and in favour of democracy.
The real significance of the movement is its target. Unlike the corporate-backed “Tea Party,” Occupy Wall Street isn’t aimed at government. Instead, it’s aimed at the seat of real power in the world today.
For the thousands who have joined the protests, it is now clear that the real power lies with corporations, not government. They know that the corporate elite thinks the role of government is not to build a better, fairer society: It’s to protect and enhance corporate profits.
While the U.S. is likely the worst example of this, Canada has not been spared from capture by corporations.
Dalton McGuinty did not implement the HST and cut corporate income taxes because policy experts told him they would bring prosperity. Not at all. He did it because the Chamber of Commerce told him to.
The goal of pro-corporate policies is higher corporate profits. They don’t bring more jobs, or better jobs. They don’t help tackle poverty or climate change. And they sure don’t pay for public services.
That’s why we are now seeing Occupy Toronto (and Ottawa, and Guelph, etc.) springing up. This Oct. 15, these groups will be making a statement at events in their own cities.
OPSEU has been a leader in helping people see the link between what corporations want and what regular people can’t get.
Our support for the Robin Hood Tax during the G-20 events in Toronto, our “People for Corporate Tax Cuts” campaign, and our “How Screwed Are You?” campaign have all been saying the same thing – namely, that it’s time to recognize the real power corporations use to shape society. It’s time to hold them accountable.
That’s what Occupy Wall Street is about, too. I encourage you to learn more about it – try Google – and if there’s an event near you, think about lending your support.
When similar events crop up where you live, see these grass roots actions for what they really are: expressions of the same deep frustration we feel as OPSEU members. The challenges we face at bargaining tables and in workplaces across Ontario are the same as those faced by so many others in our communities.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas
President, Ontario Public Service Employees Union