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‘Enough is enough!’: UFT, other unions join protest, march against Wall Street greed

Tens of thousands of students, union members and unemployed or underemployed you Miller Photography

Tens of thousands of students, union members and unemployed or underemployed youth gather at Foley Square for an Oct. 5 community-labor rally against Wall Street greed. The vast crowd covered the entire square, spilling over onto the steps of the nearby New York State Supreme Courthouse. UFT Bronx Borough Representative Jose Vargas (center, with cap) was among the many UFT members present.

Kicking off the march from Foley Square to the Occupy Wall Street encampment Miller Photography

Kicking off the march from Foley Square to the Occupy Wall Street encampment at Zuccotti Park are (holding the banner, from left) NYSUT Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta, UFT President Michael Mulgrew, Yonkers Federation of Teachers President Patricia Puleo and 1199SEIU President George Gresham.

UFT members turned out in tremendous numbers for the massive protest. Miller Photography

UFT members turned out in tremendous numbers for the massive protest. This group, sporting T-shirts from previous rallies, includes (from left) Edrick Carrero of JHS 117 in the Bronx, Madeline Moch of PS 98 in Manhattan, Sarah Leaman of PS 321 in Brooklyn and retired UFTer Judy Zemlock.

Teachers, transit workers, health care workers and other working New Yorkers joined forces with the young people from Occupy Wall Street, an anti-Wall Street protest encampment that has occupied Lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park since mid-September, for a spirited rally and march of tens of thousands on Oct. 5.

“This country is a great country and we want it to stay a great country, and in order to do that we need to speak truth to power,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew thundered from the podium at Foley Square in a nod to the Wall Street protesters whose effort to call attention to corporate greed and the inequitable economic system through their encampment has captured global attention.

“We have to tax the rich, we have to close the loopholes and we need to hold the financial institutions accountable,” Mulgrew told the gathered students and workers, including hundreds of UFT members, before leading them in a rousing chant of “Enough is enough!”

Also addressing the crowd, Hector Figueroa, the secretary-treasurer of SEIU’s powerful Local 32BJ, placed the union movement’s support of the Wall Street occupiers in context.

“We are the ones who do the work of New York and the world, but we are under attack,” Figueroa said. “We have one enemy that is attacking us: corporate America. Brothers and sisters, the time is now to unite and fight.”

Transport Workers Union Local 100 President John Samuelson, facing difficult contract negotiations with the city, thanked the youths for “sparking the labor movement,” before kicking off the march, which stretched as far as the eye could see.

Snaking its tumultuous way past both City Hall and the Department of Education en route to the encampment at Zuccotti Park, the march was a sea of vibrant humanity, all ages and colors, with creative expressions of both anger and hope captured in countless handmade signs, scores of marching bands and thunderous chants.

“Banks got bailed out, we got sold out,” “This is what democracy looks like,” and the new movement’s signature chant, “We are the 99 percent,” all could be heard for blocks.

One sign, scrawled on the back of a pizza box, captured the excitement of many there: “Believe in change.”

It was just that sentiment that motivated retired chapter leader Donald Nobles, who said he had come out to the protest and to the encampment several times in the preceding days because the cause was right.

“The class war is from the top down,” Nobles said, noting that unions and working people are not doing anything to provoke it.

“The issue is money,” he continued. “Our school system, when you take out poverty, is one of the best in the world. The whole system fails because they don’t fund the poor.”

John Bartley, a science teacher and the chapter leader at PS 79 in Queens, said he came out because, “We’ve got to send the politicians the message that we need a millionaire’s tax.”

Also joining the demonstration, 2nd-grade teacher Ana Delgado, from Manhattan’s PS 1, said she supports the Wall Street occupiers because she sees the connection between financial institutions run amok and the support staff layoffs and rising class sizes in her school.

Her solution?

“The rich need to pay their fair share of taxes,” she said.

Michael Hirsch contributed to this story.

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Video: We are the 99%: New York unites with Occupy Wall Street >>

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