Organized labor on ‘the beauty of the Occupy movement,’ without Fox 5

Max Berger at the human mic. ()
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New York Communities for Change, the Acorn-successor organization aimed at mobilizing low-income and minority communities for progressive causes, held a fund-raiser at the 1199 SEIU headquarters in Manhattan last night. 

Attendees included Representative Charlie Rangel, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, assembly members Brian Kavanagh and Linda Rosenthal, and city council members Melissa Mark-Viverito, Jumaane Williams, Ydanis Rodriguez and, briefly, Dan Garodnick. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand was honored by the group, but she was in D.C. and didn't attend. City Comptroller John Liu publicized the event on his schedule but ended up arriving after it was finished, around 8:30 p.m.

Recurring themes of the night were labor's victory in Ohio and the vigor of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators down at Zuccotti Park, which labor leaders continue to seize on as affirmation of their own aims, declaring repeatedly that organized labor and progressive activists are in sync.

1199 SEIU and 32BJ were particularly well-represented at the event.

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The highlight of the night, I thought, was RWSDU president Stuart Appelbaum's speech, in which he tried connecting the energy from the officially agenda-less Occupy movement to specific policy battles underway now.

"People are struggling in this city," Appelbaum said. "More people are on food stamps than ever before and at the same time 44 percent of all income in this city is going to one percent of the population. We cannot allow that to continue," he said.

(A spokesman for the mayor took umbrage at the food-stamp reference, which is the focus of a separate fight.)

Appelbaum went on to say that "the beauty of the Occupy movement" was that "they have articulated the economic injustices of our system."

Also, he said, "Because of the Occupy movement, more people are listening and we have to tap into that energy."

To do that, Appelbaum encouraged people to support the Living Wage bill currently being considered in the City Council and is opposed by the mayor.

"All we are saying is that when public resources are being given to private developers the public needs to get something in return, or else why are we doing it," said Appelbaum.

New York Communities for Change was created after Acorn imploded, thanks to undercover video from a conservative activist. NYCC members and supporters say the group has been unfairly covered in the media and by News Corp. outlets in particular.

(NYCC Director Jon Kest allowed me into the event but barred a Channel 5 reporter and cameraman.)

One Occupy Wall Street demonstrator who spoke at the event accused both Fox News and a Republican congressman Darrell Issa, who is looking to investigate NYCC, of racial and economic bias.

The speaker, who was presented simply as Max Berger from Occupy Wall Street, said, "If Fox News and Darrell Issa were as scared of poor people, colored people, of working-class people and middle-class people as they were of bankers, the world would be a better place."

Since the speech was delivered in the style of a Zuccotti Park human-mic check, it was repeated by the people in the audience.