A Message to the Madness:
A Day with Occupy Wall Street
Ian Collins & Peter Cenedella
As the U.S. veers into what promises to be a particularly charged presidential campaign year—with major consequences for business—it is well worth trying to discern what’s driving protesters to single out banks and big business for criticism.
40, Ann Arbor, MI; teacher and social worker
I wish I could take you in my classroom, I wish you could meet my clients. I wish you could actually see the lives of people who are really struggling, who have been disadvantaged by the system, by things that are structurally in place that are racist and sexist and anti-immigrant. And I would hope that you would be inspired to use the considerable power you have to make the obstacles the children in my class face less harmful, less immovable. I’m here for all of the kids who come through my classroom and all of my clients. I think that you can be part of the solution with us and I’m excited that you really want to listen. So go out there and do good work and join us.
24, New Orleans, LA; “voluntourism” entrepreneur
As for solutions, the most important thing I would like to see is campaign finance reform, getting your corporations’ influence out of our voice and our electoral system. Now, I don’t have a problem with the idea of corporations. I know that they have done a lot of good, in technology, in innovations in our country, and in research. There are a lot of beneficial things that are the product of all you create. But that’s not enough. What I say to people who come out and ask me is “Cap the campaigns so we can get our voice back.” You can be represented individually just as much as everybody else out there. I’m seeking to even the balance of influence with all of the American people. So what I would like to see is closing the loopholes like Super PACs and other entities used by corporations to fund candidates with unlimited amounts of money anonymously. I would also
like to see a cap on all campaign donations at $1,000.
28, Brooklyn, NY
What global corporations could do to help is just come down to Zuccotti Park and see how we’re operating. Understand community and what the obligation of a corporation is to the community. I don’t have too many particulars because business is business. We can’t tell you to stop making money or stop wanting to profit. But we can tell you there’s a responsible, ethical way in which we can go about that. On a general basis, just be more conscious of the communities which your products either enter, are produced in, or are shipped away from. Have a consciousness of the effects.
Poughkeepsie, NY; political organizer and mother
Corporations could promote environmental sustainability in their practice, they could commit to donating some of their profits to good causes and humanitarian organizations. It seems that corporations own this country and are not always particularly ethical. As a Mom with a baby of 18 weeks old, we came to say I want money for his future, money for education, for health care. These are my priorities. I want him to know he can grow up in a world better than I grew up in, but it looks like that is not the direction things are going.
69, Ashland, OR; small-business owner
Remember your Mom and Dad taught you to share? Well you need to share a little more. You’ve got a big image problem, and the longer it goes on, the more suffering will occur and the less profits you’ll make. As the economy goes down because of special interest groups influencing the government, the next thing is that people start losing their jobs, their wages, and they can’t afford to buy your products anymore, or your services. So you need to get out there and make an image change, you guys. Because if you don’t do it soon, it’s going to be way too late. This protest is just the beginning. And it’s going to spread, because it’s affecting everyone—my grandchildren, my wife’s grandchildren, our future, our homes, and our health. This isn’t about abortion or gays or guns. This is about our future. And you need to step up to the plate, Mr. CFO, and Mr. CEO.
44, Elmhurst, NY; Under-employed in the Music Business
The level of awareness has been raised about the wealth distribution, economic injustice, social injustice, governmental injustice – all these things have been brought out in a public forum for the first time. Everyone agrees – we are the 99% - literally. A lot of people haven’t had a chance to say it or express it and this movement has really inspired them to come out. People from all walks of life – we are gathered together.
Wilmington, DE; laid-off investment accountant
The problem is fundamentally that even as leaders of corporations, their money is dependent ultimately on the labor force. And without a good labor force to support whatever corporation they have, it’s not going to survive. They need people to make money. That should take precedence. I think that’s the most valuable message I can deliver.