Unions and Community Organizations May Not Be New Additions to Occupy Wall Street After All, Updated: Response from Michael Kink

Posted on October 4, 2011


I wrote last week that the union-community group coalitions that have sprouted up throughout metropolitan areas in the last year or so had so far been working in parallel and in disconnect with OWS. That may [or may not] be true, but I wanted to add a little bit more information to that. I was reading this Guardian blog today, which has been live blogging OWS. The interview with Michael Kink, who is a director of an Strong Economy for All, an organization very much like the ACCE/SEIU coalition I wrote about before and that is coordinating the union support march tomorrow, had this bit:

Some organizers and activists from our coalitions were part of support for the initial march and occupation on September 17

That got me wondering. Was it true? Whether true or false, it would have implications for the image of the current involvement. So I looked up Kink. His Twitter feed indicates that he was an enthusiastic supporter, at the very least, if not participant, on the first day of action on September 17, and has been enthusiastically tweeting ever since. This brings up more questions for me than it answers. I try not to be too hard on SEIU, but from what I know, their bottom line trumps all–they can be as ruthless in support of their master plans as any Wall Street corporation. Like the organization I was writing about in April, Strong Economy for All is focused on a state strategy, and it noticeably focuses on Republicans more than Democrats, though it isn’t soft on Gov. Cuomo.

Kink himself was a state Democratic operative in the Senate until just this year. Since he left the Senate to work [and at least help form] Strong Economy for All, which is dominated by unions and received their start-up funding from SEIU 1199, it’s not fair to judge him on his past links–perhaps he has indeed rejected party politics, as even the most stalwart Democrats have recently. But the connection to mainstream unions should be worrisome to anyone whose excitement about OWS rests on their independence, their lateral structure and lack of institutional ties. Further, SEA is enough like the ACCE/SEIU coaltion that’s been working here in Oakland and in Chicago to be pretty indicative of an SEIU nationwide strategy, or at least an informal one, to work with other unions and community groups for legislation at the state level.

I had hoped that OWS would create links to individuals within the labor movement, who would then lead their leaders, and would have the opportunity to reshape their own unions. But it seems like the involvement has been top down, and that it got in much earlier than is being suggested–I stress seems.  If that’s true, its a shame because the institutional backing has probably foreclosed a more organic participation of those disaffected in both labor and non-labor working class sectors.


Michael Kink responds in comments.