Jun 29, 2012
Two months ago, CWA Local 6355 President Bradley Harmon was one of the tens of thousands of Americans who gathered in houses of worship, college dorms, living rooms and union halls to learn about the a new movement called the 99 Percent Spring. At the day-long training, he studied the roots of the nation’s economic crisis. He learned how to design a non-violent, direct action.
And then Harmon exercised his new knowledge straightaway, helping collect 1,300 signatures for Missouri initiatives to raise the minimum wage and cap interest rates on payday loans.
“I thought, “Wow, here’s what democracy looks like. We’re actually doing it!” he said.
Harmon wasn’t the only one inspired. Across the country, more activists were walking out of 99 Percent Spring training and directly into the streets. In Iowa, organizers immediately bused 200 trainees to the Des Moines home of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage President Mike Heid to oppose the bank’s investments in private prisons and exploitation of immigrants. In New York, more than 150 participants marched to the townhouse of billionaire hedge fund manager Bruce Kovner to demand he pay his fair share of taxes. In Michigan, 200 attendees protested the Mastronardi Fruit Packing Plant, a Trader Joe’s supplier with a long history of worker abuse.
At the end of the day, participants from all walks of life — union members, Occupiers, faith leaders, environmentalists, students, veterans, immigrants — vowed to band together to fight each other’s fights. They traded contract information, swapped war stories and made plans for further protests against corporate greed, social inequality and attacks on the democratic progress.
“I’m tired, I’m angry, I’m distressed from seeing how hard our members fight these battles only to go backwards,” said CWA President Larry Cohen, leading a 99 Percent Spring training. “The only way we can fight this is together.”
Soon after, trainees joined Tax Day protests, raising awareness about corporate tax dodgers like Verizon, Walmart, Pepco and Boeing.
And as the weather warmed up, so did protests. Small gatherings grew into massive demonstrations. The 99 Percent Spring, backed by 60 progressive groups, began mobilizing at corporate shareholder meetings across the country — an action they dubbed Shareholder Spring. From Verizon (see story page 4) to General Electric to the Big Banks, activists demanded that companies pay their fair share of taxes and stop shipping good jobs overseas.
The 99 Percent Spring has now trained 100,000 activists, many of whom are planning local actions in their communities across the country. CWA was the third most active organization in hosting trainings and participating members. But building a political and economic system that offers equal opportunity for all — not just the 1 percent — requires a lot of work and a lot of partnership.
As long as corporations refuse to bargain fairly with workers and continue to send jobs overseas and dodge taxes, there’s no hope for a sustainable economic recovery. This is only the beginning.