Waving signs, chanting, and shouting their message from bridges and government centers, hundreds of SEIU 521 members and community leaders took to the streets throughout Northern and Central California Nov. 17 as part of an Occupy national day of action.
SEIU members peacefully joined the Occupy movement at sites across the country to demand an economy and a country that works for everyone, not just corporations and the wealthy.
Locally, 521 members converged in Fresno, Bakersfield, Santa Cruz and San Jose and shouted with one unified voice: “We are the 99%!”
The wealthiest 1% in America owns 42% of our nation’s wealth.
Three years after Wall Street wrecked our economy, 25 million people are still unable to find full-time work and the income inequality between the Super Rich and working families keeps growing. Instead of creating jobs, Congress keeps focusing on job-killing budget cuts.
Santa Cruz – “I’m fed up”
Hundreds of demonstrators in in Santa Cruz blanketed the Water Street Bridge before marching to the county government center for a night time rally.
Media Coverage: Read the news article in Santa Cruz Sentinel.
“I’m fed up. We’re all fed up,” said Ben Chapman, a UC Santa Cruz graduate who — like many college graduates — is leaving school only to find that jobs are not available.
“When I was a freshman at UCSC I took a job at the dining hall,” he said to the crowd of hundreds at the Santa Cruz action. “I got paid minimum wage. I took that job because I knew that three years later when I graduated I would get a better job. But now those jobs are gone, nowhere to be seen. Where did they go? I want to work. I am ready to work. But when the top 400 richest Americans have as much wealth as the bottom 50% combined the problem isn’t about me.”
Jeffrey Smedberg, a Santa Cruz County worker, said that if we invested in infrastructure projects, such as bridges and roads, it would lead to creating jobs and stimulating the local economy.
“Who are we? We are the 99 %,” he said. “We are the community. We join today in a national day of action. We need jobs, not cuts. We need Wall Street and the 1 % to pay their fair share.”
Assemblyman Bill Monning’s field representative Adam Spickler spoke to the crowd in Monning’s absence. He expressed support for the demonstrators in their struggle for equality.
San Jose – “This is what democracy looks like!”
Several hundred came out for a solidarity march in downtown San Jose, chanting “This is what democracy looks like!”
Before the march from San Jose State University to San Jose City Hall, the crowd gathered to hear testimonials of how the broken economy was affecting real families.
“What first got me engaged in the 99% movement was four years ago I bought a house in downtown San Jose,” said Kathleen Stahr, a Social Work Supervisor.
A year later, she tried to refinance her loan to lower the mortgage interest.
“The bank laughed at me. The bank said they weren’t going to modify my loan because my house was worth less than what it cost when I bought it six months before,” she said.
On bank transfer day, Stahr joined a growing movement and transferred all her money to a credit union.
“Something is wrong, something is broken, and we are going to stand up and fight!” declared Roseann Berthron-Arechiga, an Eligibility Worker in Santa Clara County, whose husband has been unemployed for two years. The family struggles with bills, including college tuition that keeps rising for their daughter.
San Jose City Councilman Ash Kalra, who joined the march, encouraged the crowd to continue their fight for economic justice and equality.
Read the blog from SEIU 521 Retiree Catherine Alexander who participated in the San Jose action.
Bakersfield – “It’s time for us to take back America”
Occupy Bakersfield was 100 strong as workers, students and the retired came out in force to stand up for the 99%. The group occupied the corner of Chester and Truxtun streets, the busiest intersection in downtown Bakersfield, directly across from the local Bank of America, which has been one of the worst corporations in our financial crisis.
- Watch 17 News’s video (KGET)
- BakersfieldNow‘s video and news article
- Read the news article in Bakersfield.com.
“The politicians in Washington D.C. are not getting together to pass the programs, to take care of the needs of the citizens of the United States, and they are only passing bills to make sure the rich don’t pay their fair share of taxes,” said Larry Bailey, a Group Counselor at Jamieson Children’s Center in Bakersfield. “That’s why I’m here, to make sure that citizens and the children of this country get taken care of.”
“It’s time for us, the 99%, to take back America,” said Sonya Bennett, Administrative Coordinator at the Kern County Department of Human Services. “It’s time for us to stand up against the corporate greed that’s gone on with our politicians. Politicians should be representing us, the 99 %, not all the corporations out there. They’re the ones with all the money now, and they’re the ones buying the politicians and the power.”
Fresno – “For me, it’s cuts to the county…”
Hundreds came out in Fresno, where an Occupy movement in a downtown park has been a constant presence. SEIU 521 members were one of the groups that turned out at River Park, near Highway 41.
“For me, it’s cuts to the county, especially in Fresno County,” said Ernie Duarte, a member of 521’s retiree chapter, in an interview with the Fresno Bee. “They have made drastic cuts, especially in the mental health field.”
What you can do next: Hang a sign declaring We Are the 99%!
Stand up to Wall Street and the 1%! Shout that “We Are The 99%” and we refuse to have our American Dream deferred any longer. Join up with thousands of Americans to display your anger and frustration.
Print this sign, “We Are The 99%,” and post it anywhere that people will see it: in the window of your home, in business store fronts, in your car windows or on bulletin boards. Change your Facebook or Twitter profile picture to show you are the 99%.
Let’s tell our leaders that we won’t stand for this economic injustice any longer. Let’s tell our neighbors that they’re not alone, it’s all right to speak out. We refuse to sit silently as Congress plays political games to avoid creating jobs, but can always find the time to cut taxes for their friends in the 1%.
Ask your friends to display the sign too!
With your help, we can realize the dream of an America that works for everyone.