As the Occupy Wall Street movement moves forward, the coming winter promises to be just as harsh as the current economic climate being protested. Many of those against the movement itself are looking forward to the colder months, as it will mean less people taking to the streets in protest. However, a newly created supply chain offering winterization to protesters aims to dash their hopes.
Across the globe, tens of thousands of people representing the 99% are marching, camping, and confronting the current economic conditions that have left working people jobless and homeless, while CEOs and executives continue to cash their impressive paychecks. There is no sign of things slowing down, as new supporters arrive every day in places as distant as Australia, or as close as your own backyard.
However, it’s November now, so city officials and law enforcement hope that things will slow to a crawl as winter creeps closer. Once the cold hits, there is the assumption that protesters will flee the open encampments in order to seek warmth. If this happens, it allows city officials a chance to lockdown currently occupied locations and better manage the crowds.
“The powers that be are clearly executing plans to shut down occupations in warm weather areas, and hoping that they freeze out those in the cold,” says Firedoglake (FDL) founder Jane Hamsher.
“It's no coincidence that Bloomberg seized the #OWS generators on the first day of snow. Getting a consistent, reliable supply of cold weather supplies to occupations across the country could mean the difference between the movement surviving the winter or not.”
With that said, Hamsher backs those words with a union-made supply chain designed to offer winter essentials to the encampments across the U.S., completely funded by FDL members.
In all, members who initiated the program - smartly named OccupySupply - have already raised $52,000 USD, of which $42,000 USD has been spent to order initial stock of heavy-duty winter gear.
The program started because members wanted to provide assistance, so they used the membership funds and donations to make bulk buys from American made, union manufacturers.
Unions such as the UFCW, Worker's United, the International Association of Machinists and SEIU stepped up to help them quickly build a product line of superb cold-weather gear that can continuously supply occupations throughout the winter.
The line includes 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 -40 degree socks.
“Every day, more and more occupations were asking us for help,” says Brian Sonenstein, FDL's Director of Online Organizing.
“It became clear that in order to adequately supply occupations across the country with appropriate cold weather gear to get them through the winter, there was going to have to be an organized supply chain.”
According to Hamsher, it wasn’t easy to source all of these union suppliers.
The garment manufacturing industry in the United States has been decimated by NAFTA, which leads directly back to one of the catalysts of the Occupy Wall Street movement. American manufacturing and the middle class economic stability that went with it have been consistently sabotaged by both political parties, FDL noted in a statement.
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, the progenitor of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
“It's tragic to see what we had lost in the past decade — 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,” says Sonenstein.
“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 supplies will all be going out to FDL members who will deliver them to occupations in their communities. Gloves, boots, and other supplies are expected to be added to the list soon.
We asked about the future of the supply chain, after all, donations and needs at the encampments will continue long after winter passes by.
“We anticipate OccupySupply will continue, but that's largely a function of whether the Occupy Wall Street movement continues. If so, they'll continue to need supplies, and we hope to keep supplying them with union-made goods,” Hamsher explained.