More demands would beef up cause

The Occupy Wall Street and the Occupy movements throughout the United States and internationally are making history. The anti-corporate focus is powerful and creative, and participants have zeroed in on the right target — the 1 percent who control every aspect of our lives.

Every day from Wall Street to Los Angeles and Atlanta, the encampments support and give greater visibility to Verizon union members demanding a fair contract, Florida farmworkers demanding an end to poverty wages and plantation abuse, and community groups marching on banks to demand an end to foreclosures.

However, the expansion of demands to challenge Wall Street’s broader agenda would strengthen the movement. The 99 percent includes 2.4 million people — 1 million black and 500,000 Latino — locked up under barbaric conditions in U.S. prisons. Ending the mass incarceration of black and brown and working-class youth is a priority. The 99 percent include 14 million undocumented immigrants facing a reign of terror from local police and federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The demand for amnesty for all immigrants is critical.

The Tar Sands pipeline from Canada to Texas is an ecological catastrophe waiting to happen. The demand that President Barack Obama exercise his executive authority to stop the pipeline would place the movement squarely on the side of the planet.

For those in search of jobs that the system cannot provide, doubling the duration and increasing the number of unemployment benefits — and ending the tyranny of work-fare and arbitrary time limits for families with dependent children — are demands that would serve the most vulnerable in society.

Many in the Occupy movement believe that making specific demands will leave the movement open to co-optation and division. But without demands that ask the president, Congress and Wall Street to make radical changes in policy, there is the danger that these entities will still carry out business as usual while the protests grow stronger.

I have great confidence that the Occupy movement will figure out its next steps to build impressive victories.

Eric Mann is director of the Los Angeles-based Labor/Community Strategy Center and an Occupy LA participant.