I want to thank the ‘Free Press’ & Tom Over for the coverage of the Occupy movement. However, while I admire & respect Tom’s hard work in covering the movement, there was a formulation in his latest piece that I feel needs to be examined.

The article spoke of Occupy activists being afraid of “being taken over by big unions and the Democratic Party.” While I’d make no attempt to discuss the motives of that, or any other, political party, as a life-long member, activist & leader of the United Steelworker’s Union, I can absolutely assure you that no one, from national AFL-CIO President Trumka, to state, local unionists, all the way down to rank & file unionists here in Columbus, has any approach directed at “taking over” this wonderful new movement. As a leader, organizer of, the local Steelworker’s Organization of Active Retirees (SOAR), we invited and were very happy to have numerous Occupy activists attend our annual Christmas dinner. We were overjoyed to offer a good meal and friendship to these activists, even asking them to address the steelworkers and friends present.

We discussed what we can do to aid the Occupy struggles and how we can cooperate in the future. We praised their activism and discussed how our tough struggles against corporate pension, health care theft and for economic justice overlapped with their movement. We, and other sectors of the labor movement, have no interest whatsoever in trying to “take over” this movement. That is divisive and goes against everything we’ve learned in years of struggles for unity and economic justice.

Unionists, as the organized sector of working people, the sector that has the ability to organize working folks and fight against corporate attacks on our people, have had bull’s eyes put on our chests by the corporate powers that be. We need look no further than last year’s SB 5, the GOP attack on public worker’s hard won right to collective bargaining in our state. Had it been able to go into effect, that bill would’ve crippled local communities, hurting sections of the public beyond only unionists & further enriched the most wealthy.

It took the building of wide coalitions, representing people well beyond the labor movement, who opposed SB 5 for their own reasons, to lay the groundwork needed to be able to win the historic victory over SB 5. Unions learned in this, and in many, many other hard fights over the past decades, that we cannot win against the super wealthy corporate ruling class in our nation without allies. Unions, whose very reason for existence is to fight against concentrated corporate, financial, wealth, welcome, with every fiber of our being, the development of an independent Occupy movement with common aims.

If either of us are to win victories against our common, wealthy and entrenched, corporate enemies, it will take an organic unity where both sides’ ideas are respected, or they will split us apart, with the advantage going only to the top 1%.

I would suggest that the concept of “big unions taking over the Occupy movement,” is divisive, and works toward separating this important movement from its natural allies. Unions, for all the problems we’ve had throughout our existence, is in the forefront of the fight against concentrated wealth, for economic justice, that the Occupy movement is also fighting. We can help this new movement with experience, stability, resources and the great many lessons we’ve learned in those fights. On the other hand, we see the Occupy movement as, finally, bringing a much needed public mobilization and militancy to the life & death issues of attacks upon regular working people, the overall fight for economic justice. This doesn’t mean we will agree on everything.

Differences among friends, however, need be discussed as allies, friends, with the goal of strengthening, not weakening our unity.

Reagan, in his time, spoke of a mythical “Welfare Queen,” getting “40 welfare checks” and driving a Cadillac. It was never true, but that formulation found its way into public discussion and did untold harm to working folks, dividing one group from another and weakening us all. I’d submit that the canard of “big unions out to take over Occupy” is every bit a false and potentially every bit as harmful and divisive as Reagan’s mythical “Welfare Queen!”

‘United we stand, divided we fall! An injury to one is an injury to all!’