Labor unions, Occupy Wall Street plan ‘day of action’ urging lawmakers to invest

Unions and Occupy Wall Street protesters will be joining forces next week for a “day of action” to pressure lawmakers on jobs.

The AFL-CIO, the Service Employees International Union and the Laborers’ International Union of North America will partner with Occupy Wall Street for “We are the 99 percent” rallies on Thursday. Liberal groups like MoveOn.org and the American Dream Movement plan to participate.

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Many of the events, union officials said, will be focused on urging lawmakers to pass more federal funding for infrastructure.

Bill Samuel, the AFL-CIO's director of government affairs, said labor has been frustrated by Republican-led filibusters in the Senate to block the parts of President Obama’s jobs bill that would increase infrastructure spending.

"It is an effort to focus public attention on repairing bridges and help with the jobs crisis. The Congress seems to be unable to do either at the moment with Republicans blocking these measures," Samuel said. 

A $60 billion infrastructure bill based on President Obama’s jobs proposal failed in a Senate vote earlier this month. The spending would have been funded by a 0.7 surtax on millionaires.

Despite support from both business groups and labor, Congress has failed to move on significant new infrastructure funding this year. Various components of President Obama's American Jobs Act would increase infrastructure spending, likely creating thousands of construction jobs for union members.

Samuel said he hopes the infrastructure provisions will be brought up in the Senate again before the end of the year.

“I think the Democratic strategy is to remain focused on the job crisis in all of its manifestations, including infrastructure. We hope that they do come back to it,” Samuel said.

MoveOn is urging activists to show what’s at stake in the infrastructure debate by holding rallies at sites in need of repair. The group links to a list of structurally deficient bridges to choose from.

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“To highlight the very places that can put America back to work, events at crumbling bridges and understaffed schools are encouraged,” MoveOn says on its website. “Other sites in your community that show a failed economy for the 99% are also good places to hold an event.”

Others will be working with Occupy protesters to bring attention to their disputes with corporations.

The Communications Workers of America (CWA), the nation’s largest telecom union, is coordinating two marches with Occupy protesters to coincide with the day of action. Both are tied to the battle over union contract negotiations with Verizon.

One march will have union members and protesters leave Albany and head to New York. The other will begin at a Verizon call center in Maryland and finish at McPherson Square in Washington, one of the encampments of the Occupy protesters across the country.

Candice Johnson, a spokeswoman for the CWA, said labor and the Occupy Wall Street Movement have found common cause together.

“We have got a lot of support from them and vice versa to bring light to corporate greed,” Johnson said. “The 99 percent, which is us, is picking up the tab for Verizon so we're trying to show that as much as possible.”