Now is a great time for the AFL-CIO and a coalition of groups involved in the Occupation of Wall Street movement to begin a national door-to-door campaign. It might not only be helpful to the effort but necessary given the commercial media’s negative coverage of the movement.
This is the perfect time also for labor to begin to develop their new approach toward politics which they have been talking about regarding candidates and issues. Labor leaders have of late been talking about stepping up their political activity working closer with progressive elected officials and even disinvesting in non progressives elected officials and candidates.
Union members and other progressive activists should be encouraged to go door to door, once a week, once a month, or even only once or twice. There hasn’t been so much energy around an issue in decades. Although the Occupation is drawing very respectable crowds, most Americans are getting misinformation about the issues and the highly respected individuals and organizations who are supporting the Occupation. They also are not getting information about when and where protests and events are taking place.
A door-to-door effort could plug people into alerts, primarily through the Internet, about local actions in their area. The message on the doors would be fairly simple:
- Have you heard about the Occupation of Wall Street protest? What do you think?
- We’re giving out information about the effort; can we contact you by email?
- Are you having problems with your mortgage?
- Are you paying excessively high interest rates on credit cards?
If organized labor were involved they might also do a yard sign campaign that would further highlight the issue in the neighborhoods
If this type of mobilization became a reality it would also make sense to advocate that people do house meetings on the issues. There are several good documentary DVDs on the banking issue, most notably “Inside Job” as well as the new film “Heist,” which is receiving very good reviews. House meetings or community meetings are a great events with speakers or a documentary or both.
People I know who are progressive are excited about the Occupation. As progressives, we need to always keep in mind that we are often isolated by the mainstream media and need to work on getting our message out beyond our base.
Organized labor and other progressive groups can find the enthusiasts out there who will be willing to go door to door for two or three hours a week or month. I am personally willing to do legwork when I think of the time I spend listening to “talking heads” on TV who usually have little or nothing worthwhile to say about this or most issues. Plus the camaraderie of being part of a big outreach effort is rewarding in itself especially if you feel you were able to connect with people when you were out on the doors.
Randy Shaw of San Francisco's BeyondChron mentioned in a recent article how Caesar Chavez and organizer Fred Ross often noted that people were willing to help and put time into campaigns if they were just asked to do so.
A door-to-door campaign is the type of activity that could give the Occupation Movement more momentum. There were people -- myself included -- who believed that the big global marches before the Iraq invasion should have been followed by a boycott of one of the big oil companies, with pickets at local gas stations. That effort would have kept people engaged and would have put significant pressure on the group that benefited most from the invasion.
The Occupation is a little different and will probably require other tactics. Getting out in the neighborhoods and seeing what message “hits a chord” on the doors could be a big step for the Occupation movement and the new progressive majority that Americans have been waiting for -- for decades.