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Workers Take Center Stage in Occupy’s Second Anniversary

In These Times

If you're going to have a raucous, costumed march in New York City, Midtown makes for a great setting. Nurses and HIV activists in Robin Hood hats took the streets yesterday, blocking traffic as they called for a financial transaction tax to fully fund healthcare and other public services. Chants of “People, not profits! Medicare for all!” filled rush-hour streets as business-suited professionals dodged through the crowds. 

The second anniversary of Occupy Wall Street was quieter than the first, but did feature a day of actions, many of them spotlighting Occupy’s labor connections. From support for fast food workers and the ongoing labor struggle at Brooklyn's Golden Farm grocery to solidarity with striking teachers in Mexico and a “save our post offices” talk, workers’ rights were front and center, along with other issues like stop and frisk, housing, alternative banking and getting money out of politics. Syria and the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal also got their due. 

But the biggest event of the day was a rally and march hosted by unions, community groups, and healthcare advocates, starting outside the United Nations at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza at 5 PM. Inside, the UN General Assembly discussed the Millennium Development Goals—ambitious goals set for fighting poverty, halting HIV/AIDS, creating gender equality, achieving universal primary education, reducing child mortality and improving maternal health, and environmental sustainability. Those goals, the protesters noted, have mostly not been met. [...]

Ellison's bill would impose a larger tax than DeFazio and Harkin's—0.5 percent on most transactions, rather than 0.03 percent—and would exempt people whose gross income does not exceed $50,000 a year, providing them with a tax credit. Wallace Turbeville, a former Goldman Sachs investment banker and now senior fellow at nonpartisan think tank Demos, explained at its unveiling that the volatility created by high-frequency trading (done by algorithm at speeds too fast for humans to comprehend) affects the jobs of everyday people, and makes market crashes more likely. The financial transaction tax could lower the incentives for such high-frequency trading and make the markets more stable, while raising billions for public works.