The Occupy Wall Street movement has found legs. No less a person than Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, seems to be at least a bit on the side of the protesters, and labor unions are joining the demonstrations.
When asked during a hearing of the Joint Economic Committee on Wednesday what the protests “said” to him, Bernanke replied that people were “quite unhappy” with the state of the economy. In a C-SPAN video posted online by ThinkProgress, Bernanke said, “They blame, with some justification, the problems in the financial sector for getting us into this mess, and they’re dissatisfied with the policy response here in Washington. And at some level, I can’t blame them.”
When asked if he was taking the protests into account in how he addressed the country’s economic problems, he said he was taking into account the conditions the protesters objected to, not the protests themselves.
Meanwhile, unions are getting behind the nascent movement. The New York Times reported Thursday that union leaders have thrown their support to the protests, which address a number of issues that labor demonstrations have tried but failed to bring more before the public eye. According to the report, one AFL-CIO leader said that leaders have been hearing from members who wonder why organized labor has not been present at the demonstrations.
At a Wednesday march, unions were there in force: the Transport Workers Union, the Service Employees International Union, the United Federation of Teachers and the United Auto Workers all participated.
Occupy Wall Street demonstrators said that unions were welcome as another means of support for the protests. Michael Kazin, a historian at Georgetown University, was quoted saying, “Labor’s needed a way to excite younger people with their message. And to the extent that Occupy Wall Street’s ‘99% versus 1%’ theme goes along with what labor has been saying for a while, it’s a natural fit.” he said.
Kazin, who has written on populist and progressive movements, added, “The protests haven’t gotten much institutional presence, and if labor can help give them institutional presence, that can really help them.”