By Alison Vekshin and James Nash – Dec 12, 2011 2:58 PM ET
Occupy Wall Street protests spread to U.S. West Coast ports as demonstrators tried to halt shipping operations and cut into profits at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS), which owns a stake in the largest cargo-terminal operator.
Protesters rallied in Oakland and Long Beach, California, and Portland, Oregon, early today as workers attempting to move goods vented frustration. The Oakland port was operating with “sporadic disruptions” caused by protesters blocking truckers, said Isaac Kos-Read, a port spokesman.
“I have bills to pay at home,” said Mark Hebert, a long- haul truck driver for C.R. England Inc. in Salt Lake City who was stranded at the Oakland port with 36,000 pounds of Kansas beef bound for Asia. “These people say they represent the 99 percent. They don’t represent me.”
The Occupy protesters say they want to highlight the plight of average Americans who have suffered from home foreclosures and soaring unemployment rates as the largest U.S. banks have recovered after the 2008 financial crisis. Their slogan, “We are the 99 percent,” is a reference to economist Joseph Stiglitz’s research that found the richest 1 percent of Americans control 40 percent of the wealth.
“This isn’t about the truckers,” Charles Rachlis, 55, a government scientist from El Cerrito, California, said in an interview at the Oakland protest. “We have to shut down the wheels of capitalism at the port. This scares the bejesus out of Wall Street.”
Union representatives say today’s protests will hurt the port workers through lost wages.
Perhaps Mr Rachlis believes that this “scares the bejesus out of Wall Street,” but it seems to scare the working men at the ports even more. The top Wall Street millionaires will remain millionaires, but the working men, the workers who are paid by the hour and depend on their jobs to put food on the table and keep a roof over their families’ heads, they are the ones the “occupiers” are hurting.
Shutting down the “wheels of capitalism,” as this “government scientist,” whatever that means, wishes to do, means shutting down jobs for working people. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 15.6% of American workers currently employed work for government at some level,1 which means that 84.4% of Americans with jobs work for some form of private enterprise. If Mr Rachlis wants to shut down the wheels of capitalism, then what he is really saying — though one might suspect he doesn’t really realize it2 — is that he wants to throw 118,591,000 Americans out of work.
This has been a constant theme with the “Occupiers.” They are protesting a lack of good jobs, and proceed to use their protests to keep people who do have good jobs from being able to work. In Philadelphia, they held up the renovations to Dilworth Plaza, a $50 million project that would create about 800 jobs, primarily union jobs.3 Now, the Occupiers are trying to shut down the ports, or, in some places, “Occupy WalMart.”
Your editor has said it before: the greatest friend the working man has is the company which employs him. His next door neighbor might have him over for dinner every once in a while, they might go fishing and deer hunting together, work on cars together in their garages or play basketball, or whatever they want to do, but their employers give them the means to translate their labor and their skills into cash, something they can use to put food on their own tables and keep a roof over their own heads. Your neighbor might be a great friend, but he isn’t going to support you; your employer does.
The Occupiers may hate capitalism, but in hating capitalism they are hating the one system which has lifted more than a tiny minority of the population above the subsistence level. Perhaps they will be able to destroy capitalism, but, if they do, I hope that they know how to build a log cabin, grow their own food, and hunt their own game, because that is what they will need to be able to do to survive.
- 21,989,000 work for government, while 140,580 Americans were employed, both the November 2011 numbers. Files accessed 12 December 2011. 21,989,000 ÷ 140,580,000 = 0.1564, or 15.64%. ↩
- Or have any idea what he’s talking about. ↩
- Mayor Michael Nutter, a Democrat, wouldn’t put up with the Occupy Philadelphia crowd any longer, and had the Philadelphia Police evict them. ↩