It is ironic that the first flicker of optimism in recent months should stem from a rag-tag protest group called Occupy Wall Street in New York City.
For years, American workers have seen factories shuttered and jobs exported overseas, experienced high and chronic unemployment, have been overworked and underpaid amid blatant and reprehensible corporate greed.
In the small world of workplace anti-bully advocates, state-by-state efforts to pass what can charitably be called anemic legislation to protect workers from this insidious form of abuse has failed to produce a single victory in eight years. This despite the fact that most industrialized countries recognized the problem years ago and took steps to combat it.
Meanwhile, Congress appears to be in a state of paralysis, held hostage by a small group of right-wing legislators who prefer cuts in programs vital to the well-being of vulnerable children and the elderly to the repeal of tax cuts that already have transferred much of America’s wealth to the wealthiest one percent of our population.
About three weeks ago, a small group of protesters set up an encampment in New York’s Financial District to decry home foreclosures, high unemployment and the 2008 bailouts, as well as excessive force and unfair treatment of minorities, including Muslims. Their message has resonated.
On Wednesday, some of New York City’s most powerful unions were set to march from City Hall to the protest movement’s base at a park in lower Manhattan. They were to be joined by students at major public universities in New York City, where tuition is rising.
Meanwhile, similar “occupation” movements are springing up in cities around the country. On Tuesday, the Greater Boston Labor Council, representing 154 unions with 90,000 workers, supported the Occupy Boston encampment for shining “a spotlight on the imbalance of power in our nation and the role that Wall Street has played in devastating our economy.”
Nothing tangible has changed for American workers but at the same time it feels like something intangible is changing.
It is no longer just a few small voices in the wilderness who are demanding positive change on behalf of most Americans.