How would corporate America fare without the labor and consumption of the 99%? Today's "general strike," organized by the Occupy Wall Street movement, may give us a taste of what such a world would look like.
The strike, strategically scheduled on International Workers' Day, calls for "no work" and "no shopping," and tells protestors to "occupy everywhere." But to what end?
While the Occupy Wall Street movement has frequently been criticized for failing to offer a set of clear demands, the central theme of dissatisfaction is clear enough. They want to ensure that the power to shape our society is in the hands of everyone who lives in it and not just those who have the most money.
Areas of concern for most OWS supporters include:
Increasing disparity between the rich and poor.
Fraudulent and predatory banking practices.
Cronyism between big businesses and politicians.
Taxpayer-funded bailouts for big banks.
Government complicity in a banking system that does not work for stakeholders.
Unequal distribution of political power among citizens.
Lack of equal opportunity.
OWS members hope to focus attention on these issues by hitting corporate America where it hurts, at least for a day, and depriving them of the customers and cheap labor that make them rich.
So that explains the "no work" and "no shopping" imperatives, but why "occupy everywhere"?
What Do They Want? Economic Justice!
In an interview on Democracy Now!, social theorist David Harvey suggested that the OWS movement uses the one power it has -- numbers -- to advocate for change. He claimed that part of what makes OWS participants angry is that politics and the media are dominated by financial interests, and so they do not have the power to push for change through those more traditional venues.
In addition, he discussed how many areas that used to be open for public assembly are either no longer there or require groups to go through a great deal of bureaucratic red tape in order to access them.
The effect, he argued, is that there is nowhere ordinary people can go to have open political dialogue. In response, Harvey said, members of the OWS movement are working together to "liberate" urban spaces in which the general public can begin that dialogue.
In other words, by disrupting the status quo in following the imperatives "no work," "no shopping," and "occupy everywhere," OWS members hope to undermine the systems that rob them of their political voice.
OWS protestors' choices about where to gather aren't just guided by the availability of space to gather and talk. Financial institutions remain a primary target of the OWS movement. In New York City, for example, today's protests are planned to occur at JPMorgan Chase (JPM) and Citigroup (C) branches. Other targets include luxury realty and auction house Sotheby's (BID), and Disney (DIS) subsidiary ABC.
While today's general strike was advertised as "a day without the 99%," that title is misleading. With events scheduled throughout the day in cities across the nation, the day is more likely to be viewed as "a day occupied by the 99%." They aim to be present and visible, and to do whatever they can to make their voices heard.
Motley Fool contributor M. Joy Hayes, Ph.D., is the Principal at ethics consulting firm Courageous Ethics. She doesn't own shares of any of the companies mentioned. Follow @JoyofEthics on Twitter. The Motley Fool owns shares of Walt Disney, Citigroup, and JPMorgan Chase. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Sotheby's and Walt Disney.
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