NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

LIVE from Providence: Collaboration, Not Co-Option: Labor, Community Organizations, and Occupy Wall Street Working Together

Wel­come to my first post from Prov­i­dence! Now it’s 10:30, and I’m sit­ting in a pan­el about how the Occu­py move­ment and more tra­di­tion­al pro­gres­sive groups can work togeth­er, in order to bet­ter cre­ate pos­i­tive change. Pan­elists first described where they were when they first heard about Occu­py Wall Street, and sto­ries emerged from the pan­elists about check­ing out and then becom­ing friends with Occu­py LA, hav­ing friends who par­tic­i­pat­ed in the tak­ing of the Brook­lyn Bridge, and tak­ing part direct­ly in the actions of Occu­py.

“Backscratch­ers for rich peo­ple made out of ivory tusks” was how one pan­elists described the mes­sage of those push­ing against the Occu­py move­ment, in a counter to the crit­i­cisms that Occu­py does­n’t have a coher­ent mes­sage, when for many of the peo­ple it was their first intro­duc­tion to activism, and the counter-mes­sage against Occu­py is one that is over­whelm­ing­ly bad for the Amer­i­can pub­lic.

Con­ver­sa­tion moved then to dis­cuss more about the actu­al col­lab­o­ra­tion, start­ing first with the Team­sters orga­niz­ers reach­ing out to the Occu­py move­ment (some­what sur­pris­ing, con­sid­er­ing the tra­di­tion­al con­ser­vatism of the union) in order to take joint action against Sothe­by’s in equal part ener­getic and cre­ative. These joint actions pro­vid­ed the sol­i­dar­i­ty need­ed to make the projects suc­cess­ful, and the Occu­py move­ment was able to take action that more insti­tu­tion­al groups could­n’t. This was despite many fears that many groups were using the move­ment for their own pur­pos­es,  and speak­ing in pub­lic about those fears, but behind the scenes these groups were able to pro­vide ben­e­fits to Occu­py as well, includ­ing run­ning inter­fer­ence in order to help them keep Zucot­ti Park as long as pos­si­ble.

The pan­el pro­vid­ed a per­cep­tive look into the actu­al work­ings of Occu­py Wall Street, the flur­ry of phone calls, how an extra 72 hours to orga­nize an event can make all the dif­fer­ence, and the strat­e­gy between the Occu­piers in the park and orga­ni­za­tions such as MoveOn.org and inter­na­tion­al labor unions.

As was artic­u­lat­ed by one pan­elist, Occu­py allowed groups that had been work­ing on sim­i­lar issues take much more rad­i­cal action on these issues and be much more explic­it in the demands they were mak­ing. Even though they are not longer phys­i­cal­ly occu­py­ing, he con­tin­ued, they were able to cre­ate a space which is still inhab­it­ed and where work is still being done.

While a lot of talk was about the col­lab­o­ra­tion part of the pan­el, not much was dis­cussed about the co-option issue, as one audi­ence mem­ber point­ed out. As a pan­elist answered, every­one, includ­ing the Occu­piers them­selves, need­ed to take a step back and reeval­u­ate their strug­gle. Sug­ges­tions were made about look­ing at it from a solu­tions-based per­spec­tive, not to look at it as who the per­son is with, but what they want to get done, what resources they have, and how they can work togeth­er.

The pan­el pro­vid­ed a first-hand look into what the Occu­py move­ment has done, how they did it, and what work they’re look­ing at doing in the future (par­tial­ly dis­played by one pan­elist’s inabil­i­ty to make it because she was work­ing with dif­fer­ent groups to stop May­or Bloomberg’s stop-and-frisk pol­i­cy). Even though they may not be as phys­i­cal­ly preva­lent, the work from those in the pan­el, and the very least, are going to con­tin­ue to keep Occu­py rel­e­vant for months and years to come.

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  1. […] here to see the orig­i­nal: LIVE from Prov­i­dence: Col­lab­o­ra­tion, Not Co-Option: Labor … This entry was post­ed in News and tagged col­lab­o­ra­tion, com­mu­ni­ty-orga­ni­za­tions, […]