Teaching Profession

Unions Court ‘Occupy Wall Street’ Protesters

By Stephen Sawchuk — November 03, 2011 1 min read
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Teachers’ unions are among the groups that have been actively involved in supporting the Occupy Wall Street protests that have sprung up in U.S. cities from coast to coast.

United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew made an appearance at the (actual) Wall Street protests in New York, and the union was in fact one of the organizers of that Oct. 5 rally, according to UFT superblogger Leo Casey. The union has also donated space and supplies to support the protest.

Boston teachers joined a “grade-in” at the tents of protesters there. The Chicago Teachers’ Union, meanwhile, has marched with the protesters, and its house of delegates has endorsed the Occupy movement in the Windy City.

The Occupy Los Angeles coalition put out a statement airing grievances against the superintendent similar to those voiced by United Teachers Los Angeles, whose board recently voted to support the protest there, the Huffington Post reported.

The Wall Street Journal has a broader look at the relationship between labor and the Occupy protests. Unions see opportunities to recruit a new generation of activists and leaders, the story asserts.

Teacher’s unions do appear to see this movement’s protests as compatible with some of their favored policies, such as progressive income taxes. And their complaints about the influence of private corporations and philanthropies in education dovetail with the basic philosophy of these protests, which contrast the 1 percent of top earners with “the other 99 percent” of workers.

But will this participation help unions advance specific education policies and ideas? That remains to be seen. The Occupy folks have made it clear that they don’t support a single, unitary policy agenda. And teachers’ unions have increasingly been pressured to offer more solutions, or at least participating in shaping policy, than saying ‘no.’

We’ll be following these developments with interest.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.