Occupy, the 99% Spring, and the New Age of Direct Action
Collaboration or cooptation? Expansion or dilution? Mark Engler on what to make of the 99% Spring.
by Mark Engler
Over the past several weeks, a broad coalition of progressive organizations—including National People’s Action (NPA), ColorOfChange, the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), MoveOn.org, the New Bottom Line, environmental groups like Greenpeace and 350.org, and major unions such as SEIU and the United Auto Workers—has undertaken a far-reaching effort to train tens of thousands of people in nonviolent direct action. They have called the campaign the 99% Spring.
Starting this week, many of these same groups will be rallying their members and supporters to use newly honed skills to confront the shareholder meetings of corporations across the United States—charging executives with abusing workers, the environment, and communities in pursuit of profits for the 1 percent. They are calling the drive 99% Power. With prominent actions gearing up this week—starting with major protests at Wells Fargo meetings in San Francisco—the campaign may soon be coming to a city near you.
The Genesis of the 99% Spring
Although this month’s 99% Spring trainings have taken place in the shadow of the Occupy movement, the coalition building behind them actually predated the emergence of Occupy Wall Street. Last summer, a handful of organizers from groups such as Jobs with Justice, NPA, and NDWA had discussions in which they lamented the lack
of direct action in recent years. As NPA Executive Director George Goehl explains, “We felt what was missing in terms of organizing and in terms of the broader fight was that there wasn’t enough energy pointed towards challenging corporate power: That’s not going to government and saying, ‘Reign these guys in,’ but actually going toe-to-toe with big corporations.”