Occupy Oakland and Aggrieved Truckers Can Learn From Each Other
by Lisa Martinovic
When the Occupy Movement hits ninety-nine percenters in the pocketbook, do we have the right to say it’s for their own good?
I am an enthusiastic supporter of the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Though I am in no condition to camp out in public plazas, I take every opportunity to participate in actions—be it a march in San Francisco, a general strike at UC Berkeley or a speak-out against police brutality in Oakland. I am thrilled to be alive in this historic awakening.
Still, I had mixed feelings as I trekked down to the Port of Oakland to support the second shutdown, on December 12. I appreciate the value of high-profile actions that demonstrate to politicians and CEOs the extent of our power and commitment to change. But I also know that some unions, truckers and port workers opposed the shutdown citing financial losses to rank-and-filers.
The evening’s General Assembly was jubilant and feisty. At one point I peeled away to talk with a trucker from Nebraska carrying a load of pork destined for Japan. Perched in the cab of his gleaming 18-wheeler, Ron told me he’d been stuck at the port for 9 hours—prevented from unloading his cargo—and losing money by the minute.
I tried to explain that the shutdown was organized both to hurt the corporate bottom line and to show support for truckers like him and the rest of the 99%. He wasn’t buying it. He’d been in Oakland during the last general strike and was $3000 poorer because of it. “Shut down a bank!” he barked.
Social movements are complex and their tactics—strikes, boycotts, sit-ins and shut-downs—will inevitably hurt some of the innocent as well as the guilty.
But who was I to tell Ron that in the long run this sacrifice was for his own good?
Instead I apologized for his loss. I told him that this movement is his as much as it is anyone’s, and that he too can have a role in shaping it. In the meantime, I said, I’ll bring your message to Occupy Oakland.
“Thank you,” said Ron. Then he reached out the window and shook my hand.