Occupy Oakland at a Sunday media conference announced plans for a general strike that will take place on Wednesday, November 2. The strike is aimed at protesting the heavy-handed use of police force to disperse Occupy Oakland and to suppress minority communities. Just as important though, the strike will protest capitalism whose main imperative–to maximize profit at all cost–has destroyed jobs, communities, education opportunities, and people’s security.
“The entire world is fed up with the huge disparity of wealth caused by the present system,” said Boots Riley, an emcee for the rap group the Coup. “The Oakland General Strike is a warning shot to the 1 percent. Their wealth only exists because of the work of the 99 percent.”
Clarence Thomas, a third-generation longshore worker and a leader of the Million Worker March, said that the general strike is about fighting corporate power with worker power. “For the last thirty years, American workers have been providing their employers with increased productivity but our wages have stagnated,” Thomas said. “Corporations have shipped our jobs overseas where they can pay slave wages.”
“Capitalism has failed us,” added Thomas. “It can no longer deliver the goods.”
Nell Myhand, who is fighting to stop Chase Bank from foreclosing on her home, said that she is participating in the general strike because banks like Chase have destroyed communities with their predatory lending practices. More than 30,000 families in Oakland have been evicted from their homes because of foreclosures. Renters have also been evicted because their landlords did not make mortgage payments.
Those hardest hit by the evictions are minorities and the elderly. “Ninety percent of the foreclosures (in Oakland) are in three zip codes that are predominately either African-American, Latino, or elderly,” said Myhand, who works for Causa Justa, a community organization that helps people fight foreclosures. “In some cases, those being evicted already owned their homes, but took out a loan to fix a roof or make some other major repair.”
Javier Armas, a former high school teacher, said that on the same day that the police were attacking Occupy Oakland last week, the Oakland Unified School District decided to close five elementary schools. “Back in 2003, the State of California forced the Oakland School District to take a $100 million loan, then sold the loan to Bank of America, which then sold it to other investors,” Armas said.
The school district had to decide whether it was going to pay the interest on loans or keep schools open, and it decided to close the schools, Armas said. Those schools are an integral part of the communities where they are located, and their closure will affect the educational opportunities for the students who attend them.
A number of unions are urging members to attend the marches and rallies that are part of the general strike. SEIU Local 1021, whose members work for the City of Oakland encouraged its members to “use legitimate time off to stand in support of Occupy Oakland and join the day’s events.”
UAW Local 2865, which represents academic student employees at the University of California at Berkeley, passed a resolution saying that it supports Occupy Oakland and will turn out its members to support rallies and activities scheduled for November 2.
Carpenters Local 713 also passed a resolution urging its members to support the one-day general strike aimed at protesting “our country’s rising inequality and the brutal actions of the police in the city of Oakland, California.”
Other labor organizations endorsing the actions of the general strike include the Alameda County Central Labor Council, the Philippine Airline Workers, the Berkeley Federation of Teachers, the Oakland Teachers Union Executive Board, the Million Worker March, and the San Francisco Bay IWW.
Events will begin at 9 a.m. when people will meet at Oscar Grant Park then march on banks and other symbols of corporate power that remain open. At 4 p.m., strikers will reconvene at the park then march on the Port of Oakland and begin picketing the port when the 7 p.m. shift begins in order to shut down the port.
Occupy Oakland hopes that the general strike will encourage other workers throughout the world to initiate their own actions to reclaim their lives and livelihood stolen by corporate greed.