Students, Union Support ‘Occupy Wall Street’

New Paltz UUP Chapter drafted a resoltion in support of the "Occupy Wall Street" movement.
New Paltz UUP Chapter drafted a resoltion in support of the "Occupy Wall Street" movement.

Cody Hill, third-year Women’s Studies and Sociology major, stood in front of a strand of sign-carrying, chanting protestors in the financial district several weeks ago. Ten hours later, he was sin police custody for disorderly conduct.

However, Hill said he and 84 others who weren’t read their rights by New York City Police officers were detained  for more than two hours on a city bus were anything but out of order.

“Tensions rose as the march progressed, and unfortunately, I witnessed severe police brutality beyond anything I’d ever expect to see in such an allegedly progressive nation,” Hill said. “The protests are about the people of our nation taking back political, economic, and social control from large corporations and the richest 1 percent of Americans.”

The Executive Committee of the United University Professions (UUP) chapter agree with Hill and other “Occupy Wall Street” demonstrators, causing them to pass a resolution supporting the movement’s demands for “economic justice.”

Peter Brown, president of the New Paltz chapter of a union that supports more than 34,000 faculty across the SUNY system, said members should support the demands of thousands of protestors in the financial district because the “devastating” budget cuts the state and the college have endured resulted from “the Great Recession that was brought on us all by the excesses of Wall Street.”

“Given the hostility with which public sector unions have been treated recently, we need to stand together in solidarity with the other unions that have voiced their support of this movement, defending the rights of all workers to organize and stand up for their rights,” Brown said.

Like many of the protestors who first came together as the less-wealthy majority or “the other 99 percent” on Sept. 17, the UUP Executive Committee said in their resolution that “the men and women of Wall Street” are in “large measure responsible for triggering the recent collapse of the United States economy.”  According to the document, at least 15 of the country’s largest labor unions recently joined the “Occupy Wall Street” in a mass rally and march.

Some students formally joined the movement last Wednesday, with colleges across the state hosting walk-outs, teach-ins and other demonstrations focused on national, state and campus fiscal woes. At SUNY New Paltz, New York Students Rising and the Students of the Final Cut sponsored the second teach-in of 2011.

However, Brown said the UUP resolution did not condone the campus demonstration that drew 100 students to walk out of their classes for legal reasons. According to Brown, New York’s Taylor Law forbids public employees from striking or performing other forms of work stoppage. But Brown said the New Paltz UUP chapter will support all legal opportunities available for the expression and manifestation of the important aims of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

“In this instance, we walk a very fine line between explicitly not condoning the student walk-out on campus because of the Taylor Law, while at the same time supporting the spirit of the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ demonstrations and their rather ill-defined pleas for economic justice,” Brown said.

Hill said supporters of “Occupy Wall Street, whether they be students, professors or others coming from various backgrounds made up a diverse group all intent on “creating a democratic and safe environment to allow everyone’s voices to be heard in an effective manner.”

“To me, these protests are about restoring democracy as it was meant to be,” Hill said. “It is about prioritizing people before profit, and taking steps to create a world in which the majority is not struggling to survive while the very few profit.”