OPINION | Occupy Wall Street voices move the national debate to our issues

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From a small gathering in New York City’s Zuccotti Park, the Occupy Wall Street movement now has spread to nearly 1,000 communities across the United States — including here in Minneapolis.

The primarily young Occupy Wall Street protestors, in their own creative way, have refocused national media attention on the issues we share in common: a concern that too  much of this nation’s wealth and income goes to a privileged few, while most Americans struggle to stay afloat in our challenging economy. Discussion of economic inequality now leads the news.

“We are the 99 percent,” Occupy Wall Street proclaims, demanding that the top one percent pay their fair share of taxes so that our nation can invest in jobs, education and a future where prosperity is broadly shared.

In the weeks since Occupy Wall Street began September 17, the youthful protestors, many of them students, increasingly have been joined in the streets by people of all ages and occupations, including thousands of union members. Nearly two dozen national unions, including the AFL-CIO, have issued statements supporting Occupy Wall Street (for a list, see www.occupywallst-unions.org).

To critics who would marginalize the Occupy Wall Street movement, these many added voices affirm, “we are the 99 percent.”

The loosely-organized Occupy Wall Street movement spread to Minneapolis when “OccupyMN” protestors took up residence at the Hennepin County Government Center plaza October 7. Coincidentally, this development came just as we launched our AFL-CIO “Minnesota Wants to Work” week of action October 10. The same week, Minnesotans for a Fair Economy also organized a week of action.

OccupyMN, Minnesota Wants to Work, and Minnesotans for a Fair Economy all joined together October 14 for a massive rally and march in downtown Minneapolis under the banner, “Don’t Foreclose on the American Dream.”

The crowd included students, seniors, a diversity of races, building trades workers in hardhats, SEIU members in purple, Minnesota Nurses Association  members in  red, AFSCME members in green, and others.

What’s next? Occupy Wall Street has helped put a national spotlight on corporate greed and an economy that enriches the top  one percent.
We are the 99 percent. Let’s find common cause with all who are struggling in this economy and work together in a rising call for economic justice.