Oct. 4 (Bloomberg) -- Protests against Wall Street that are spreading nationwide will help build a movement by workers and the unemployed to “rebuild the American dream,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said.
The arrests of 700 demonstrators in New York City over the weekend reflect frustration about a lack of work at a time of high corporate profits and executive bonuses, Trumka said in remarks today for a conference of Democratic party allies in Washington, U.S. unemployment has been 9 percent or higher for five consecutive months,
“A lot of people got arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge, and is there any wonder why,” Trumka said. “Millions out of work? Millions thrown out of their homes? And the bonuses keep flowing? And Wall Street wants more tax cuts for corporations and less regulation so they can do what they just did to us all over again?”
The rallies, which began in lower Manhattan in mid- September, spurred protests in Los Angeles and Boston, where 25 people were arrested Sept. 30 after police said they refused to leave the lobby of a Bank of America Corp. building. The next day, New York police halted a march over the bridge and arrested activists for blocking traffic.
Trumka said the AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest labor federation, will join the protests with a week of rallies called “America Wants to Work.”
The weekend arrests in New York prompted Transport Workers Union Local 100 to seek a court order barring police from forcing transit workers to abandon their routes and carry demonstrators arrested for disorderly conduct.
The union of 38,000 members, which last week said it’s supporting the protests, asked U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayer to prohibit the New York police or New York City Transit Authority from forcing drivers to transport protesters as ordered by police on Oct. 1.
A court hearing is set for today on the request, said Jim Gannon, a spokesman for the union, which represents about 9,000 city bus drivers.
Trumka also said in the prepared remarks that free-trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama, which President Barack Obama sent to Congress yesterday, are “lousy” deals that will destroy 159,000 jobs by encouraging companies to send work overseas.
The agreements are on the Tea Party’s “anti-government” agenda that aims to block programs to help the unemployed, stall action on funding government and make it harder for new voters and students to cast ballots next year, he said.
Trumka, who didn’t criticize Obama for backing the trade agreements, urged the group to support the president’s jobs program.
“I’ve been the first to call out President Obama when I thought it was needed,” he said. “When he is doing the right thing, the courageous thing, it’s time for us to fight back.”
Trumka will make his comments at a conference of the Campaign for America’s Future, a coalition of Democratic party allies that is seeking to counter the impact of the Tea Party.
--Editors: Steve Geimann, Larry Liebert
To contact the reporter on this story: Holly Rosenkrantz in Washington at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Liebert at firstname.lastname@example.org