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Grassroots, Labor Support for 'Occupy Wall Street'

  • Peter Fedynsky

Occupy Wall Street demonstrator with a dollar bill taped over his mouth, Zuccotti Park, New York, Oct. 10, 2011.

Occupy Wall Street demonstrator with a dollar bill taped over his mouth, Zuccotti Park, New York, Oct. 10, 2011.

Occupy Wall Street is a round-the-clock operation that fthat is feeding its participants and protecting them from the elements. A peek behind the scenes of the movement's logistical operations in New York reveals a grassroots and labor-union network that keeps goods flowing to those in need.

Justin Strekal, a volunteer from Cleveland, Ohio, oversees what's referred to as SIS, an abbreviation for Occupy Wall Street's shipping, inventory and storage unit. The SIS space - a small parcel of property owned by the United Federation of Teachers - is just three blocks from Zuccotti Park, epicenter of Occupy Wall Street movement.

"We are all storing it here, making sure that our working sites at the camp are all fully stocked with anything that they need for the day, and we are storing the rest of it to be able to sustain a long-term occupation," he said, explaining that the unit receives as many as 400 boxes of donations every day, including comfort items such as blankets, sleeping bags, pillows, and jackets.

Socks are especially welcome after it rains, he says, as are hygiene items such as toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo, deodorant, and first-aid supplies. The trove remains in a state of organized chaos, perpetually sorted and inventoried to accommodate circumstances as they unfold.

The movement has also received about $250,000 in financial donations that, he says, will be allocated according to the ethic of fair labor the movement espouses.

"We wanted to make sure the companies we are supporting ... treat their workers in a humane and fair way," he said, adding that every effort is made to purchase supplies from countries that practice fair trade, not free trade.

Volunteer Cory Thompson of Minneapolis, Minn., says the protest inspires donations from those who can't personally participate.

"We’re seeing [donations] from as far away as New Zealand and Australia ... South Korea, Japan," he says. "[Domestically] I can’t even think of a state [whose name] I haven’t seen a box or a shipment of some kind."

Although the volunteers acknowledge that some of the food supplies go to freeloaders who attend protests only for free meals, they're nonetheless reinvigorated upon rejoining demonstrators in Zuccotti Park at the end of a long workday.

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