Belabored: Occupy’s Ten-Year Anniversary, with Stephen Lerner and Jonathan Westin

Belabored: Occupy’s Ten-Year Anniversary, with Stephen Lerner and Jonathan Westin

How did Occupy change the labor movement? And what lessons might it still hold for unions struggling to find their footing in an ever more crisis-prone world?

Union members join Occupy Wall Street protesters as they rally in Foley Square on October 5, 2011 in New York (Stan Honda/AFP via Getty Images)

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September 17 will mark ten years since Occupy Wall Street kicked off in Lower Manhattan, changing the way we talk about inequality, politics, and capitalism. What effect, though, did it have on the labor movement? This week, we’re exploring Occupy’s legacy with Stephen Lerner, organizer and fellow at Georgetown University’s Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor, and Jonathan Westin, director of New York Communities for Change. Both tried to organize around the financial crisis before Occupy and were active during the movement. Now, they consider its tactics, its language, its class makeup, and what lessons it holds for a labor movement still struggling to find its footing in an increasingly crisis-prone world.

On this episode and the next one, we’re featuring an extra-long conversation, but we also look at a nurses’ walkout in Alabama, the ongoing strike at St. Vincent Hospital, and Starbucks workers unionizing.

This episode of Belabored is part of a collective of podcasts brought together to explore the legacy of Occupy, in light of its ten-year anniversary. The producing partners for this project are the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation’s New York office and The New School’s Milano program. You can also hear analysis on Occupy’s impact from The Dig and more of your favorite podcasts. We encourage you to learn more and listen to some of the other episodes by visiting RosaLux.NYC/Occupy. And tune in for our next episode with Ruth Milkman and Nastaran Mohit.

Thank you for listening to our 230th episode! If you like the show, you can support us on Patreon with a monthly contribution, at the level that best suits you.

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Noam Scheiber, Starbucks Faces Rare Union Challenge as Buffalo Workers Seek VoteNew York Times

Lauren Kaori Gurley, ‘It’s Almost Comical:’ Starbucks Is Blatantly Trying to Crush Its Union, VICE

Cyrus Moulton, St. Vincent Strike Hits Six-Month Mark, Telegram

Connor Sheets, UAB nurses protest as COVID pandemic rages on: ‘We are extremely overwhelmed’,


Stephen Lerner

New York Communities for Change

Stephen Lerner, Organize and Occupy!, The Nation (2011)

Sarah Jaffe, The 99% Versus Wall Street: Stephen Lerner on How We Can Mobilize To Be the Greedy 1%’s Worst Nightmare, Alternet (2011)

Jaffe, The McJobs Strike Back: Will Fast-Food Workers Ever Get a Living Wage?, The Atlantic (2012)

Jaffe, This Group Pioneered the Fight for $15. Can They Transform the Fight for Affordable Housing Too?, The Nation (2016)

Emily Stewart, We Are (Still) the 99 Percent, Vox