Labor backs Occupy Poughkeepsie’s fight

January 3, 2012

POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y.--In the midst of rush-hour traffic and rain showers, dozens of workers and community members rallied December 15 in Hulme Park, site of the evicted Occupy Poughkeepsie encampment, to express their support for the goals of the movement.

The Poughkeepsie rally, organized by 1199SEIU Healthcare Workers East with the support Occupy activists and community members, followed one five days earlier in nearby New Paltz, which marked the beginning of the Occupy New Paltz encampment at Hasbrouck Park.

Union members from 1199SEIU called for the December 15 rally in the wake of Occupy Poughkeepsie's eviction a week before. Workers from 1199 have been at the main Occupy protests during the past several months and deepened their participation as the month went on.

Speakers at the rally talked of the sacrifice made by participants in the labor and civil rights movements before they forced concessions from those in power. Several speakers emphasized that we face a long struggle that we're only only at the beginning of. Lisa Richardson, a worker for 30 years in the labor and delivery department at Vassar Brothers Medical Center, told a local newspaper, "In Poughkeepsie, just like all across America, the 99% are rising up and saying we want good jobs and a fair, democratic economy."

The two-hour rally was followed by an impromptu march led by union members down Market Street to Main Street, where protesters picketed a local Chase Bank with chants of "The banks got bailed out, we got sold out."

Throughout the demonstration, there was much talk about what to do next. The Occupy movement has resonated with many people in the community, as activists who gather to wave signs near Hulme Park's adjacent and well-traveled off-ramp to the Mid-Hudson Bridge know. The drivers who most consistently show their support by honking are undoubtedly working-class drivers: from UPS and FedEx, ambulance and fire truck drivers, paramedics, maintenance truck drivers, bus drivers and others.

Occupy Poughkeepsie has received support from the parents and families of occupiers, from labor unions, from local churches that opened their spaces to us, from teachers at local schools who have done the same, and from countless community members who come to rallies and marches, and who visit and participate in the occupation.

The message from the December 15 rally was clear: dispersing our physical occupation will not stop us from re-occupying, from educating, from agitating and from organizing for fundamental change.

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