Union, students join Occupy Wall Street

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Occupy Wall Street protesters march towards Zuccotti Park in New York’s Financial District on Wednesday.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

NEW YORK — Unions joined the long-running protest against Wall Street and economic inequality Wednesday, with their members adding protesters in a Manhattan march as smaller demonstrations flourished across the country.

Protesters in suits and T-shirts with union slogans left work early to march with activists who have been camped out in Zuccotti Park for days.

“We’re here to stop corporate greed,” said Mike Pellegrino, an NYC Transit bus mechanic from Rye Brook. “They should pay their fair share of taxes. We’re just working and looking for decent lives for
our families.”

The protesters have varied causes but have spoken largely about unemployment and economic inequality and reserved most of their criticism for Wall Street. “We are the 99 percent,” they chanted, contrasting themselves with the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans.

Some of the union members traveled from other states to march.

Karen Higgins, a co-president of National Nurses United, came down with a group of colleagues from Boston. She said they had seen patients who skipped important medical tests because they couldn’t afford them.

“Tax Wall Street,” she said. “Those who make all the money need to start paying their fair share.”

The Occupy Wall Street protests started Sept. 17. Since then, hundreds have set up camp nearby in Zuccotti Park and have become increasingly organized, lining up medical aid and legal help and printing their own newspaper.

Several Democratic lawmakers have expressed support for the protesters, but some Republican presidential candidates have rebuked them.

On Tuesday, CBS reported that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney called the protest “class warfare” at an appearance at a Florida retirement community.

Activists have been showing solidarity with movement in many cities: Occupy Providence. Occupy Los Angeles. Occupy Boise.

Many of those protesting are college students. Hundreds walked out of classes in New York, some in a show of solidarity for the Wall Street movement but many more concerned with worries closer to home. Protests were scheduled at State University of New York campuses including Albany, Buffalo, Binghamton, New Paltz and Purchase.

Some protesters were recent graduates looking for work, including Rachelle Suissa, who held up a sign in Manhattan that read: “I have a 4.0 GPA & $20,000 in debt. Where’s my bailout?”

The 25-year-old Brooklyn woman said she has applied for at least 200 jobs and is finding it difficult to remain optimistic.

“I don’t understand what’s going on here,” she said.