October 5, 2011 / 8:06 PM / 7 years ago

US labor unions set to join Wall Street protests

NEW YORK, Oct 5 (Reuters) - Labor unions including nurses and transit workers planned to join a an anti-Wall Street march on Wednesday through New York’s financial district, and some college students walked out of classes in solidarity with the growing protest movement.

The American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, Communications Workers of America and the Amalgamated Transit Union said they would be joining the protesters voicing discontent and anger over high unemployment, home foreclosures and the 2008 corporate bailouts.

The nation’s largest union of nurses, National Nurses United, also said it would take part in the New York march, set for late afternoon in downtown Manhattan.

Students on college campuses added their voices, with walkouts scheduled on Wednesday at some 75 universities across the nation.

“We stand in solidarity with those protesting Wall Street’s greed,” said Gerald McEntee, president of the 1.6 million-member AFSCME union, in a statement. “The economy that has wrecked so many lives, obliterated jobs, and left millions of Americans homeless and hopeless is the fault of banks that gamble with our future.”

The protests began in New York on Sept 17 and have spread to Los Angeles, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Tampa, St. Louis and other cities across the nation. A protest in planned in Washington on Thursday. In New York, more than 700 people were arrested on Saturday when demonstrators blocked traffic lanes on the Brooklyn Bridge while attempting an unauthorized march.

Nurses in Boston planned to rally in support of the Occupy Boston protest on Wednesday, according to the Massachusetts Nurses Association website. Boston protesters have set up a makeshift camp in the financial district, with tents pitched across from the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston building.

Retired teacher Frank Mello, 69, said he joined the Boston movement to “demonstrate that we are stronger when we are united and Wall Street is as powerful as we allow them to be.”

In Chicago, where dozens of protesters have gathered at the heart of the financial district every day, banging drums and holding up signs, office worker Tom McClurg, 52, said onWednesday was the first day he had joined the group.

“I’m hoping it’s going to raise awareness here of people’s opposition to domination by financial interest of their elected representatives,” he said, adding, “I think there are a million times more people not here who are sympathetic.”

The New York protests have grown bolder since they started. While the demonstrations have been largely peaceful, there have been occasional scuffles and some protesters have challenged police.

Camped out in Zuccotti Park in downtown Manhattan, the New York protesters have sometimes been dismissed by Wall Street passersby or cast in the mainstream media as naive students and mischief makers without realistic goals. Members of the group have vowed to stay through the winter. (Additional reporting by Lauren Keiper in Boston and Mary Wisniewski in Chicago; Editing by Greg McCune and Cynthia Osterman)

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