Saturday, November 19, 2011

SEIU: This Is What Co-Optation Looks Like!

As the Occupy Wall Street movement rattles the cages of the nation’s political and economic establishment, SEIU has launched its own campaign to co-opt and de-fang the movement for its own political purposes. Check out this piece by author and columnist Glenn Greenwald on “Here’s what attempted co-option of OWS looks like.” It has zingers like these:
SEIU’s effort to convert and degrade the Occupy movement into what SEIU’s national leadership is — a loyal arm of the DNC and the Obama White House — has become even more overt.

…what was notable here was how brazenly [SEIU President Mary Kay] Henry exploited the language of the Occupy movement to justify her endorsement of” Obama and the Democratic Party.
And here are excerpts from one reader’s eye-witness report about SEIU’s embarrassing co-optation efforts in Los Angeles this week, which were carried out by SEIU staffers who otherwise are busy rigging fraudulent unionelections, cutting back-room deals with employers, and trying to crush union democracy.
Just came from the SEIU-orchestrated action in downtown LA. What a joke.

Less than 24 hours after announcing its inevitable endorsement of President Obama, SEIU is out in force trying to pretend it's an anti-establishment shit-disturber… I spotted scabs Stan Lyles and Keisha Stewart from SEIU-UHW, Carlos Vellanoweth and Dana Hohn from 721, and Norm Yen from the international.  Members were being unloaded by the bus-full.  It was immediately clear that this was going to be another stage-managed SEIU photo op for the media.

The crowd did a permitted march from the bank to the intersection of 4th and Figueroa, where a handful of volunteers recruited by SEIU took arrests.  And I mean "arrests" in the artistic, interpretive, theatrical sense.  From the Los Angeles Times: “It was a highly choreographed event. ‘It is a totally orchestrated series of arrests,’ said Los Angeles Police Cmdr. Andrew Smith. ‘The arrestees knew they would be detained.’"

Even though there were at least 200 cops in riot gear at the intersection, SEIU and its front group, Good Jobs LA, had marshals in orange vests doing the LAPD's job for them, ordering people over and over again to stay on the sidewalk and physically blocking the crowds from entering the intersection we were supposedly there to occupy. 

I heard afterward that when actual Occupy LA people (as in, the people who camp and participate in General Assemblies) voiced their desire to get past the marshals, enter the intersection and get arrested too, they were told by marshals that they weren't ALLOWED to.  Only people wearing designated white t-shirts, apparently, were pre-approved by SEIU to enjoy the privilege of violating police orders...  This was at an event SEIU was referring to as an Occupy action in solidarity with the OWS activists who are currently being brutalized by police.

An SEIU guy was on the mic with amplified sound leading chants for about two hours straight, and from where I was standing, non-SEIU affiliated protesters were getting increasingly annoyed that they weren't able to voice their own chants with their own messages, because nobody could hear anything but the one official chant leader with the official mic attached to the official dance club-grade speaker.  Whenever protesters started chanting something more appropriate, like "Take off that riot gear!  We don't see no riot here!", they got drowned out.  I heard people around me grumbling - and this is verbatim - "I hate that guy" (the official guy with the mic), "I actually want to hurt that guy," "This is serious, it's not a street party," and "Let's leave, this isn't our scene." 

After the "arrests" were made, Norm Yen got on the mic and started channeling LAPD orders to the crowd, like "Please stay on the sidewalk," and "The LAPD are now leaving; please stay on the sidewalk until they've left the area."  The marshals were everywhere trying to make things easy for the LAPD by evacuating the area we'd just shown up to "occupy" as neatly as possible. 

The cops returned the favor by helping do SEIU's job, announcing to the crowd, "SEIU members, go to 4th and Flower where your bus is waiting."  If it weren't for the uniforms, you honestly would not have been able to tell who was a cop and who was an SEIU marshal.

At the impromptu General Assembly meeting afterwards at the City Hall camp, there were plenty of remarks about the whole event being a "Hollywood" action, and at least one comment about it being clear that the whole thing was "co-opted by the unions" (SEIU apparently gives us all a bad name).  Apparently people didn't feel too great about being used as props to give SEIU a little unearned street credibility.