#OccupyBoston got some high-profile visitors this weekend as Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and AFL-CIO leaders Steven Tolman and Edward Kelly made their way to speak to the occupiers of Dewey Square. Offering gifts of tarps, hand sanitizer, duct tape, water and flashlights, Steven Tolman walked the camp talking to the occupiers and offering support for their efforts to continue the fight against wage inequality. Tolman told the Boston Herald,
“I think it’s important that organized labor reaches out to people who are demonstrating for the right reasons and we see this as certainly the right reason,” Tolman told reporters as he toured the camp. “Many people in this country have been devastated over losses and it doesn’t seem that the people who have made the mistakes have been held accountable.”
Tolman and Kelly weren’t the only union representatives in attendance as leaders from local teachers, nurses, and building trades unions visited Dewey Square. While the movement tries to stay independent, allowing the established labor movement to align itself with #OccupyBoston is a logical fit as they both share common goals. Richard Rogers of the Greater Boston Labor Council said:
“For the last 30 years the labor movement and labor leaders have been crying out about the injustices in our economy and the distribution of wealth and power in this country and nobody has listened, we are so proud of these young people for standing up.”
The same day, Governor Deval Patrick quietly inspected the encampment offering encouragement to the “thoughtful, responsible people.” He visited in the AM before anti-war marchers joined from Boston Commons to hold a joint rally. By stepping foot in Dewey Square, Patrick helped to continue the legitimization process of the occupiers’ peaceful intent and became the highest-profile political visitor to date. Many at the Square are waiting for Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino to make a visit. Occupier Gregg Housh told the Boston Herald in another article:
“I want (Menino) to meet the people who he did what he did to,” Housh said, referring to Tuesday morning’s arrest of 141 demonstrators.”
By hosting visitors such as Tolman and Patrick, the #OccupyBoston movement has shown that its message — representing “The 99 Percent” and thus all of us but the ultra wealthy — is one that will produce longevity as the days and especially nights continue to get colder and longer.
Occupier Leah Riklin, in response to Tolman’s visit, added:
“In the beginning this was the hope, that it wasn’t just a bunch of hippies camping out,” the Cambridge resident said. “The hope is that we spread out to everybody because it is the 99 percent. It’s everybody’s movement.”
In fact, the president of aforementioned building trades in Massachusetts, Frank Callahan, discussed the Occupy movement alongside #OccupyBoston’s Marisa Egerstrom on Amy Gruber’s “Sounds of Dissent” (WZBC — interview begins at 40:45).
While they are not official partners, it only makes sense that unions and the Occupy movement would go hand-in-hand being that they have a common enemy in overreaching big business and its formidable lobbies. This is something not lost on Jason Chambers, unemployed Ironworker and occupier, who has been camping out in Dewey Square.
“A lot of the issues we’re addressing, labor’s been screaming about for years, the influence in Washington of Wall Street money. It’s hijacked our democracy,” Chambers said. “With the Occupy movement, everybody that’s involved in it is so pro-labor and so pro-union it’s refreshing.”