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Posted at 08:00 PM ET, 11/21/2011

AFL-CIO urges unions to treat Occupy DC as picket line

With Congressional leaders announcing Monday they had failed to reach consensus on how to cut the federal deficit, the Occupy Wall Street protesters traveling from New York to the District are picking up the pace.

 For nearly two weeks, dozens of protesters have been walking to the District to raise visibility and prepare to take their frustrations with perceived income equality to the U.S. Capitol.

Although the group was initially expected to arrive early Wednesday, it now plans to arrive Tuesday morning.

Occupy DC protesters plan to meet the marchers, who left Baltimore Monday morning, near the Rhode Island Metro station about 10 a.m. Tuesday. From there, the protesters plan to march to McPherson Square, where a noon press conference is scheduled, organizers said.  Later in the day, the will kick off two days of demonstrations aimed at Congress, according to the Occupy DC website.

The arrival of the marchers, who will have traveled 231 miles since Nov. 9, comes as the movement locally is getting a major boost of support from regional labor leaders.

At its 28th biannual convention on Saturday, the Maryland State and District of Columbia AFL-CIO approved a resolution calling on its members to treat Occupy encampments in the District and Baltimore as they would a formal picket line.

 The resolution states the AFL-CIO will support any “unionized or non-unionized worker who refuses to break up, raid or confiscate the belongings of protesters.”

           

  It also calls “on unions representing public workers and public safety workers to not participate in such activity as to deny the rights of occupiers.”

 “Protest movements, like strike lines and organizing campaigns do not have curfews and are not 9 to 5 activities,” the resolution states. “And in doing so, we recognize and will work to protect the right for occupiers to protest 24 hours a day, on-site, with proper protection, including food, medical supplies, water and tents.”

Despite police raids on numerous Occupy Wall Street encampments around the country, protesters in Baltimore and the District have so far been allowed to pitch tents in high-profile locations, including McPherson Square on K Street Downtown.   Though local unions have already been supporting the protesters, including offering them jackets and access to showers, the new AFL-CIO resolution could make it more difficult for local elected leaders to push to break up the camps.

 Fred Mason, president of the Maryland State and D.C. AFL-CIO, called it is the “height of hypocrisy” for some business and community leaders to complain about sanitation at the camps when they had previously remained quiet about the conditions facing the homeless.

  “We see these trends developing across the country,” Mason said. “We see what’s happening in New York and California, and all of these things don’t happen at once…We want to provide every kind of support we can so they can continue.”

  The AFL-CIO also voted to give $3,000 each to Occupy DC and Occupy Baltimore.

  D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D), who relied heavily on union support during his 2010 campaign, was at the AFL-CIO convention when the resolution was voted on. On Monday, Gray said he supports the protestors right to demonstrate, but added the city will respond when laws are violated.

Mason, however, noted that the AFL-CIO approved a separate resolution in May endorsing civil disobedience as a way of expressing frustration with the nation’s economic system.

By  |  08:00 PM ET, 11/21/2011

 
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