Occupy Labor

Port of Oakland
Port of Oakland via Wikipedia

The press reports here in the San Francisco Bay Area tell us the cost of the Occupy movement to the city governments in Oakland and San Francisco now total about $ 1 million each in additional police, public works and cleanup costs. But that is only a fraction of the true cost of this hard to categorize movement.

I was downtown San Francisco yesterday and the size of the Occupy crowd had dwindled to a handful in front of the Federal Reserve Building.  The policy now prohibits tents and camping out but still permit the peaceful protest as long as the crowd does not block ingress and egress from the building.

In Oakland it is a different story, after the siege of downtown Oakland that resulted in violence and force many small businesses to close, the City finally shut down the camp.   There are still day protesters but it is a shadow of the former presence.  The erratic handling of occupy situation has now resulted in a recall petition against Mayor Jean Quan for bungling the first big problem on her watch.

Occupy the Port of Oakland Escalates the Conflict

But the problem gets both worse and gains clarity in what is happening at the Port of Oakland near Jack London Square where the Occupy Movement has relocated in change of tactics now focused on shutting down the Port of Oakland in order to ‘punish the 1%’.

This shift in tactics seems to suggest both the waning of interest and the digging in by the hard core of the movement.  It has been subtle but apparent that the Occupy movements in Oakland and San Francisco were aided and supported by selected labor unions including the Teachers and Service Workers unions and perhaps others either encouraging or choreographing, it is not clear, events to support their own political agendas.  That there was embarrassment for the liberal progressive politicians that originally supported them as the demonstrations went on was thought to be regrettable collateral damage.  That small business who clearly do not fit the label of the 1% were horribly affected as the movement drove customers away was often only a sidebar story on the evening news outshouted by the protesters.

But the move on the Port of Oakland is different.  Either the Occupy Movement has been reduced to its radical core now uping the ante in an effort to keep it going—or—the parts of the labor movement which originally supported occupy are now hearing loudly and clearly the complaints of other voices in the labor movement like the Longshoremen that closing the port entrances with Occupy protests is going to cost workers their paychecks for Christmas.  In the first few days of the Port tactics the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the average daily cost for cargo disruption at the Port of Oakland is now about $4 million in lost revenue and pay for 750 workers at the Port sent home. Police reports say there may have been as many as 3,000 protesters at the Port entrance and that the Occupy ports tactic change was spreading to 11 other West coast ports.  This is not coincidence.

The Occupy Movement is at a critical point because its original message calling attention to income disparities and the hardships the rotten economy is visiting on the 99% resonated with many.  We get it. But the longer it goes the more muddled the message.  This is NOT the left wing version of the Tea Party as some on the Democrat side had hoped.  The Tea Party had a message and a clear philosophy of lower taxes, less government spending and debt and less intrusion in the lives of ordinary Americans.  The Tea Party members also were quickly assimilated in the broader fabric of American politics.  The Occupy crowd has overplayed their hand and is increasingly seen as doing more harm than good for their message.


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