BANGOR, Maine — The Eastern Maine Labor Council levied its support behind Occupy Bangor demonstrators Friday, arguing that the government’s economic practices have backed financial institutions and large corporations while leaving behind struggling middle-class workers.
The EMLC, which represents 34 unions with more than 6,200 members, voted unanimously Monday to endorse the Occupy movement, according to EMLC President Jack McKay.
“We feel the Occupy movement deserves a great deal of respect for bringing these issues to the forefront,” McKay said during a press conference at Peirce Park, minutes before the Veterans Day parade worked its way down Main Street.
McKay said the government has rewarded “financial gamblers, insurance companies and sweatshop retailers,” which has led to the harsh economic downturn and “bankrupted the middle class and America.”
Emery Debay, vice president of the EMLC and secretary of Bucksport’s United Steel Workers 1188, said he has watched mills across the state declare bankruptcy and shut down, putting workers out of jobs and causing middle-class families to struggle.
“I have watched that while workers are taking cuts to wages and benefits, the investment corporations that own these mills are lining their own pockets,” Debay said.
The EMLC has laid out three measures that might turn the tide, according to McKay.
First, corporations would have to invest in creating good jobs and banks should make credit more accessible to small business.
Second, banks would stop the 10 million pending foreclosures in the country as a way of halting the fall of the housing market.
Third, a tax on financial speculation would raise revenue to fund education and create jobs, McKay said.
John Curtis, an EMLC trustee and member of the National Association of Letter Carriers, waved a book titled “Labor’s Untold Story” as he spoke behind the podium amid labor union members and Occupy Bangor demonstrators.
The book, written by two pro-union authors, discusses the battle between labor unions and government since the founding of the United States.
Curtis said he was impressed by the Occupy movement and its efforts to create change.
“That’s why I’m attracted to the Occupy movement, whose supporters have the energy, the commitment and the gusts to challenge the super-wealthy 1 percent who are ripping off the rest of us.”
Occupy Bangor organizers said the six or so demonstrators who have been camping overnight outside Bangor Public Library hope to stay through the winter.