The country's most prominent labor confederation is allying itself with the Occupy Wall Street protests, hoping the energy driving that movement can rekindle enthusiasm for a labor movement that’s lately suffered some high-profile setbacks.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on Wednesday praised the protesters, whose persistence has drawn increasing attention, and tried to frame the demonstrations as an outgrowth of organized labor's own efforts.
"Occupy Wall Street has captured the imagination and passion of millions of Americans who have lost hope that our nation’s policymakers are speaking for them," Trumka said in a statement. "We support the protesters in their determination to hold Wall Street accountable and create good jobs."
He noted that union workers had joined the protesters on Wall Street, where for more than two weeks protesters have been voicing an array of grievances. While the daily demonstrations don't carry the tightly targeted outrage of some street movements, their progressive and anti-corporate thrust jibe well with the labor movement.
Labor could use a shot in the arm. After decades of declining membership figures, particularly in the private sector, union members say they have been pushed to the edge of a cliff. Republican and Democratic governors alike, facing tough budget situations back home, have imposed austerity measures and curtailed collective bargaining that labor officials have criticized.
In his statement, Trumka called for corporations to invest additional money for new jobs, a tax on financial transactions to raise additional revenue, and for banks to write off 14 million mortgages currently underwater.