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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Occupy Wall Street Part VI: UAW In the House

Pat M., a 73 year-old retired UAW worker who also served in the US Army drove down from Quebec to take part in the Occupy Wall Street demonstration. Pat is French-Canadian by birth, but spent his working years in the US.

Me: You drove down here specifically for this?
Pat: Yes, 100 percent.

Me: So why are you here?
Pat: I'm here basically to let the public know, to let the public be more aware, that the 1% is paying the taxes. There's too many loop holes and they don't pay their fair share of this economy. Wall Street has gobbled up all the 401Ks, all the pensions that the people had and now they're trying to privatize Social Security so the money will end up on Wall Street.

Me: You worked for GM for twenty-five years. Did you retire or were you laid off?
Pat: I retired.

Me: Is your plant still in operation?
Pat: No, the plant closed in Tarrytown. There used to be one in Framingham, Mass [sic], Mahwah, Linden. They're all gone.

Me: Who would you blame for the closing of those plants, GM or the Federal government?
Pat: Probably both. The government took their tax breaks and opened up plants overseas. I mean...we should do the building here. The Buick Century was [built] in Tarrytown, they took the Century and moved it to Mexico, and at the dealership it was the same price.

Me: How did you feel about GM taking money from the government?
Pat: I think it's a good thing. They paid the money back, they hired a lot of people, and they let the money flow a little bit. Our Region 9 covers New England, New York state and Puerto Rico. Our Region [9A] Director Julie Kushner was here yesterday.

Me: How much influence are the unions having on this protest?
Pat: I think they're just getting on board now. They took a little time to get on board, but I think it's a movement that's going to grow.

Me: And you think that's a good thing?
Pat: I think it's a good thing. It's not going to hurt anybody. Most of these people here, they are out of work, or hurting, or believe in the cause. They're not here just by accident.

I tried to press Pat further on the financial and operative support the UAW might be offering the demonstrators but the answer invariably came back to 'people are hurting' and 'they believe in the cause.' He did give me his business card though.

Between the business card and the fact that regardless of which way I steered the conversation Pat steered it back in the direction he wanted it to go, I'd surmise that Pat wasn't there by accident either.

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