99 Percent Spring/Challenging Corporate Power Trains Activist Leaders

Joe Mayhew - Spring Training

CWA Local 1103's Joe Mayhew leads a "train the trainer" session for 99 Percent Spring.

Spring Training - Local 1103

Occupy Wall Street-inspired activists are gearing up to lead demonstrations and resistance as part of "99 Percent Spring/Challenging Corporate Power."

The movement — led by a coalition of 60 progressive groups that includes CWA — has already trained 86 national trainers, who then fanned out across the country last weekend to train their regional counterparts in 21 cities. All this preparation will culminate in a week of workshops, from April 9 to 15, where 100,000 activists will learn the causes of America's economic distress, history of nonviolent direct action and how to channel what they've learned into campaigns for change.

"It's connecting the dots and understanding how we got here," said Chris Kennedy, CWA's Human Rights Director, who hosted a training session in Atlanta. "Only after understanding how we got here will we believe in the ability to change things."

Last weekend, nine CWA members helped prep regional leaders who ranged from students to retirees, autoworkers to Greenpeace activists. Some had demonstrated with Occupy in Zuccotti Park in New York, while others were new to fight for economic equality. The diverse group encompassed all religions, races and sexual orientations.

"Everyone got up and said one thing that was unbelievable: 'Sure, we're from different places. Sure, we all look different. But we are here so everyone can have a fair shot,'" said Joe Mayhew of CWA Local 1103, who helped lead the New York City training session. "We were there as the 99 percent."

Democracy only works with an informed and active citizenry, the trainers believe. So the April workshops will start off with a primer of what happened to America's economy. Participants will learn about the choices that created this climate of inequality, starting with the policies of President Ronald Reagan, who attacked unions, deregulated financial markets and cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans.

After discussing who's responsible and what a different future could look like, participants will develop their own personal economic justice narrative, solidifying why they are involved and part of the 99 percent.

Finally, participants will learn the strategies for nonviolent direct action, such as how to escalate and de-escalate a situation. In particular, they'll be studying Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which was not actually the result of a spontaneous act of civil disobedience, but rather a meticulously planned event.

AFA-CWA's Darren Shimora, who attended a training session in Washington, said these workshops will help create a lasting framework for everyday Americans to build strength and solidarity, with the goal of being able to respond quickly.

"If we receive word of some injustice...we would be able to quickly mobilize behind it, instead of saying, 'we need two weeks to plans this,'" he said, noting that 100 AFA-CWA Flight Attendants will be joining the 99 Percent Spring/Challenging Corporate Power effort. "This is the groundwork we need to go forward."

How can you participate in 99 Percent Spring/Challenging Corporate Power? Click here to sign up to attend a training session, or offer to host a workshop in your union hall, place of worship, community center or home.