Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Occupy supports striking cleaners – and vice versa

Where the f--- are the unions?, a protest sign said during the early days of Occupy Wall Street. By now, unions play an active role in the protests. In the Netherlands, the union movement has not played a very visible role in the occupy protests, but in The Hague, occupiers and striking cleaners are going to collaborate.
An article in the Gotham Gazette describes how in the US, union involvement emerged bottom-up. First individual union members joined the protests, and they convinced union leaders follow suit. Unions participate in actions and also provide practical support, such as legal support and help setting up first aid posts.
For their part, occupiers showed up at various union protests. They also called on people not to buy the new iPhone 4S from Verizon until the company improves labour conditions.
In the Netherlands, there was initially some concern that the occupy protests might be co-opted by political parties and by union members with caps and balloons. This turned out to be hardly the case. While many union members joined last Saturday’s protests, they were generally not brandishing union logos.
Meanwhile, practical collaboration between occupy and union activists is starting to emerge. In The Hague, cleaners have pulled down a statue of Minister Henk Kamp last Saturday, because his department is cutting the cleaning budget by 25%, which will increase the workload. Occupy Den Haag has announced it will support the cleaners’ protests, union leader Herrie Hoogenboom reports. On their part, cleaners will deliver food to the Malieveld, where protestors are camping, later this week.
Image: Last Saturday, cleaners pulled down a living statue of Henk Kamp in The Hague. Photo Ron Meyer

UDPATE: in a press release, Occupy Amsterdam has also declared its solidarity with the striking cleaners.

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