The Story: The Spartanburg and Greenville Occupy groups met up with the AFL-CIO organizers outside of the Republican debate this evening. At about 5pm we walked from the 1st Amendment area (a pretty little square of park about a half-mile from the auditorium where the debate was being held) to Morgan Square in Spartanburg (Named after Daniel Morgan, one of the heroes of the American Revolution). There the 99%'ers joined up with the union people from the AFL-CIO.
The union people and the Occupy group marched together to the entrance of the college where we had started from. This time however, there were about 125 of us. One of the organizers wanted us to chant something about the GOP but most of the people didn't understand the significance of "Yucca Mountain". Instead, after a weak chant when we started out, it changed to a robust "We are the 99%". It was heaven for this former New Yorker to be walking down the Main Street of Spartanburg in the heart of Republican territory with all of these people with me. Other chants were "This is what democracy looks like!" and "The banks got bailed out, we got sold out!"
After marching for a half-mile with a nice police escort, we got to our destination. It was hard for the marchers to understand that the rear of the march kept falling behind. Since I spent over 20 years in the military, I knew that those in the back had to almost run to keep up. (So, for any of you thinking of going into the military, and I don't advise it at the present time, make sure that when they run you, get into the front of the formation).
After we had picketed for a while, the union people held a meeting and proclaimed that a "Right to Work" state was a "Right to Slavery" state, and that they were organizing in North and South Carolina. All of the union people (except three) that spoke were from North Carolina. The President of South Carolina's AFL-CIO was there, but I didn't get her name. It was a boisterous meeting directed toward union organizing in South Carolina.
An Opinion: The Occupy people really didn't need or ask help from the union people. It was real nice of them to join us and walk with us, but I was just a little pissed-off that they attempted to co-opt the protest. They didn't ask any of the Occupy people to speak at their meeting and that was kind of a slap in the face. They mentioned that the movements in Ohio and Wisconsin have motivated their President, Richard Trumka, to start organizing in the "Right to Work" states in the South. That's admirable and it's about time. They should have started here long ago.
Still, I resent them using the Occupy Movement to advance their agenda. They should have told us that the meeting at the end of the march was going to be about union matters only. While I fully support union organizing, especially here in South Carolina, most of the people in the crowd had nothing to do with the union. They were there to protest as part of the Occupy movement. I would urge President Trumka to keep us posted about your organizing efforts and I'm sure that many of us in the movement could split our time to help you people out. This doesn't mean that you can march with us and hold a union rally afterwards. That isn't the way things work. There are many politicians and causes that are trying to co-opt this movement. We would ask you sincerely to not be a part of that. We could have held our own meeting after the march. While we may support and sympathize with your efforts, the Occupy movement has its own agenda, as you have yours.
Still, it was an experience. It remains to be seen how successful the AL-CIO will be in South Carolina. This could get interesting.