Today we started sending out the first shipment of #OccupySupply goods — 500 pairs of UFCW union-made socks made to withstand -40 degree weather.
But that’s just the beginning. There’s a lot more on the way.
On October 21, the FDL Membership Program started the Occupy Supply fund. At the same time that other organizations saw Occupy Wall Street as a vehicle to reinvigorate their tarnished images and enhance their own coffers, FDL members just wanted to help. And what we saw was trouble on the horizon: the powers that be were clearly executing plans to shut down occupations across the country in the warm weather areas, and hoped to freeze out those in the cold. One day #OWS discussed moving to Atlanta for the winter, and the next day #OccupyAtlanta was raided. It’s no coincidence that Bloomberg seized the #OWS generators the first day it snowed.
We raised over $50,000 in one day for occupations across the country, with 100% of all funds received committed to buying supplies they need. Kevin Gosztola stayed with FDL member Mark S. in Ft. Wayne, Indiana and together they used money from OccupySupply to buy tents, sleeping bags, blankets and sheets. In Bloomington, FDL Member John S. played host to Kevin, and they bought heavy-duty cold weather sleeping bags for 10-30 degree weather. Kevin was the guest of FDL Member Fred O. in Memphis, where they purchased more tents and warm clothing. FDL member Patty M. and Kevin buy tents, sleeping bags and pizza in Louisville. In Des Moines, FDL member Angela G helped Kevin buy four generators. In St. Louis, a group of FDL members including Ray, Bill, Harold and Beverly helped Kevin buy tents and sleeping bags. More supplies have been purchased for occupations in Columbus, Cleveland, Madison, Los Angeles and DC.
But it became clear that in order to adequately supply occupations across the country with appropriate cold weather gear through the winter, there was going to have to be an organized supply chain. And we also realized that there was an opportunity to give the business to American made, union manufacturers. So over the course of the past 2 weeks, with the help of unions from the UFCW to Unite-HERE to Worker’s United, the IAM and SEIU, we’ve basically been building a product line of superb cold-weather gear that can continuously supply occupations throughout the winter.
Of the $51,000 we have raised to date, we’ve already spent $42,000, most of it on heavy-duty cold weather gear: thinsulate-lined masks and beanies, wool watch caps, polar fleece scarves and blankets, double base-layer self-wicking long underwear, quilted jackets and vests, fleece pullovers, as well as the aforementioned -40 degree socks will all be going out to FDL members who will deliver them to occupations across the country. We hope to announce that gloves, boots and other supplies will be added to the list soon.
But it was not an easy task to source all of these union suppliers, and it was extraordinarily depressing. The garment manufacturing industry in the United States has been decimated by NAFTA. Link after link to once thriving union shops were dead, even in the past few years. They went out of business. They were gobbled up and gutted, or the jobs went overseas. Or both.
Which leads right back to Occupy Wall Street. As American manufacturing goes, so goes the American middle class — which was built on manufacturing jobs. “Decline” is too delicate of a word to describe what happened. American manufacturing and the middle class economic stability that went with it were sabotaged by cooperation between leaders of both political parties. The 18% unemployment that young people now face, the crippling student loans and credit card debt that puts them into indentured servitude to the banks before they’re even out of school, the bleak future as a Starbucks barista living on their parents’ couch, the constant redistribution of wealth out of their pockets and into those of the one percent — in short the very factors that have driven #OWS residents into these modern Hoovervilles — were all prophesied in the WTO protests of 1999.
It was tragic to see what we had lost — not only the vast majority of American textile manufacturers in the United States, the jobs they provided and the communities they sustained, but also the craft and skill in the products they made. Go over to Ebay and search for “union made.” You’ll see amazing clothes that span the decades, from industrial attire to high fashion. Virtually every one of those companies is gone now, or no longer manufactures in the US. It’s stunning.
So when we were creating the OccupySupply line of cold weather clothing for the steady stream of people who show up at the occupations, we committed ourselves to using union made goods. To insure that the money would go to support people with sustainable incomes, and won’t just cyclically reinforce the problem.
The fabulous logo, by our designer Caz, signifies the commitment to economic justice that these garments represent.
It took the cooperation of a great many people to pull this off in such a short period of time, with union Presidents past and present reaching out to shop stewards and manufacturers to bump us to the head of the production line so we could deliver the goods to Occupy Wall Street protesters as quickly as possible. Special thanks go out to Joe Hansen, Leilah Mooney and Teresa Hansen of the UFCW; Noel Beasley, Edgar Romney, Jo-Ellen Schlademan, Lynn Fox and Nancy Campos-Siete of Workers United; Tom Buffenbarger, Matt McKinnon and Bruce Olsson of the Machinists Union; Art Pottash and Joel Coen of Artex Mills; Rod Eitland of American Unions; and SEIU alumni Stephen Lerner and Andy Stern. It would have been impossible to pull this off in such a short period of time without them.
Thanks also go out to the remarkable FDL members who have become the #OccupySupply liaisons to the encampments in their communities. The time that they have taken to ask questions, sit and listen to the needs of the occupiers, take part in General Assemblies and try to offer help in the most constructive and cooperative way possible has been invaluable and inspirational. Our members are the backbone of the #OccupySupply program.
If you know of an #Occupy encampment that needs winterization supplies, you can let us know here. If you’d like to become an FDL member and help with outreach to occupations in your community, you can join here. And if you’d like to donate to the #OccupySupply fund to help us send more gear through the pipeline as soon as possible, you can do it here.
As always, 100% of the money we raise through the #OccupySupply fund will be used to get much-needed supplies for Occupy encampments throughout the winter. And we we are committed to doing it in an economically just, cost-effective way that respects and values the workers and companies who manufacture them.