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Occupy L.A. Offers Unions A Chance To Push For Obama's Jobs Act

Paige Brettingen |
October 20, 2011 | 2:08 a.m. PDT

Executive Producer


 Paige Brettingen)
Paige Brettingen)

Nearly 1,000 union members and supporters participated in a downtown march Wednesday from Grand Avenue to City Hall, protesting corporate greed and voicing support for the Occupy L.A. movement as part of the “99 percent.”

“The people united will never be defeated,” shouted Claudia Mencia, a march organizer, from a loud speaker as she stood in the back of a pick-up truck that led marchers carrying a “We are the 99 percent” banner spanning the width of the street.

The “99 percent”- a slogan that began as part of the nationwide Occupy movements- represents the Americans who “are getting nothing while the other 1 percent is getting everything,” according to the 99 percent Tumblr website.

“We want equality…justice.  The fact that 1 percent is controlling the destiny of our country is wrong,” said Scott Mann, a participant in the march and employee of United Long Term Care Workers, a union that had about 350 members present.

The march began at the California Plaza at 350 Grand Ave. and continued to First and Spring Streets as part of a collaborative movement to strengthen the common goal shared by all of the participating organizations as well as Occupy LA.

However, the march was more than simply a public outcry about the 1 percent – it was about a solution.  According to Wendy Carillo, ULTCW communications director, that solution is the American Jobs Act that was proposed by President Barack Obama in September.

“We understand that in order to play in the game, you have to know the rules, and one of those rules is you’ve got to have an outcome,” said Carillo.  “What we want is to put Americans back to work, and that bill needs to pass in order for that to happen,” she said.

In the meantime, protesters and marchers made it known that they will not wait idly until that bill is passed.

Stopping in front of the Wells-Fargo Bank high rise, Mencia was particularly selective with her next chant:

“The banks got bailed out, we got sold out!” she yelled and the crowd joined in, alternating between English and Spanish translations.

“This is a $34 trillion economy.  That’s wealth that we created… we want money for jobs, we want money for our schools, for housing, education, and healthcare, and we know we can do this.  If we fight through this we can win,” Mencia said.

Among those marching was Denise Kornegay, 48, a mother of five and a former homecare worker.

“My husband’s in the military, we’re a hard working middle class family.  All we ask for is the same rights as the 1 percent,” said Kornegay.  “My mother passed away in June.  I’m standing here in honor of her because- unlike her- they [the corporations] won’t take my money.”

Passing out candles and guiding the protesters along the way, Maria Valladaros, 27, a worker for Good Jobs L.A. has been part of the Occupy L.A. movement for two weeks, helping with marches such as these.

“It’s been a memorable experience,” said Valladaros.  “You see how the community really works for each other.”

Surrounded by beating drums, shrill whistles and horns, the march continued its procession into the Occupy L.A. camp, otherwise known as City Hall at the intersection of Spring and First Streets.

On the City Hall steps, speakers from each organization expressed why its mission related to the Occupy movement and why it was so vital to work together.

“We are hopeful, but angry.  We’re here to shake up the status quo.  We want an end to exploitation.  So let’s agree to fight.  By fighting with our feet… and march,” said Ian Thompson, head of the ANSWER Coalition, an anti-war organization.

Following the speeches, Occupy L.A. protesters taught the marchers “consensus decision making” – a variety of hand signals used to facilitate large group discussion and participation. 

The Occupy L.A. speakers also shared the details about their next plan of retaliation against corporate banks.

On “Bank Transfer Day,” which will occur on Nov. 5, Occupy L.A. protesters will close their accounts with national banks and transfer their money to local community banks or credit unions.

They encouraged the marchers to do the same.

One of the Occupy L.A. speakers, Mario Brito, helped organize the Occupy L.A. movement before it started 19 days ago and has been camping at City Hall since Oct. 1.  He apologized for his hoarse voice, saying the yelling and chanting might have something to do with it.

“[Occupy LA] is a rollercoaster, but at the same time it’s good.  We plan to stay indefinitely,” he said in an interview.

Even if many of Wednesday’s marchers are not able to stay indefinitely, they did plan on getting the full Occupy experience for at least one night, adding their sleeping bags and tents to the others covering City Hall’s park lawn.

Among those camping out was ULTCW President Laphonza Butler who said in an interview that she hoped more people would come out to support the dedicated efforts of Occupy L.A. organizers like Brito.

“They’re making a sacrifice for all of us and the least we can do is support the effort because we all support the issue,” she said.

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