London: 100,000 Participate in Union Led March Protesting Austerity
On October 20, 2012 more than 100,000 people took to the streets of London to protest government austerity measures. The protest was led by the labor movement and was called for by the Trades Union Congress. The Trades Union Congress of Britain is an affiliation of 54 unions that represent approximately 6.2 Million Britons. Thousands turned out at simultaneous protests that also took place in Belfast, Ireland and Glasgow, Scotland. The protests were seen as sign of the growing anger that the British people are feeling towards austerity measures. The protests were also seen as a show of strength of the British Labor movement.
As in America, the official British unemployment rate has been falling slowly, but steadily, and is now below 8.00%. However, as in America, the jobs that the British economy are primarily low wage jobs that have contributed to an increase in income inequity. The UK GINI coefficient, which is used to measure income inequality, is now higher than at any time in the last 30 years. The implementation of austerity measures has created more inequality. Over the last 4 years living standards have fallen by 13%. The current government is following the lead of nearly every European government and is vowing to continue on the path of austerity. Earlier in the year the UK government promised to eliminate more than 700 thousand public sector jobs by the year 2016. It is not expected that the weak economy will be able to provide new jobs to those displaced government workers.
The labor movement in the UK (as in all of Europe) is increasing their protests over the austerity measures that continue to be pushed on the British population. This economic crisis was not caused by the excesses of the working class, yet the working class is being asked to pay the price for a recovery that is excluding them. As in America, Europe has yet to enact regulations that will prevent the financial industry from once again engaging in fraudulent activities that will destroy the world economy. When the next economic disaster is again caused by the top 1% of the world, it will again be the 99% that are asked to pay the clean-up costs.
It would be nice to see the American Labor movement taking to the streets and demanding that their voices be heard. Austerity is being planned for America. Regardless of who wins this election progressive voices must be the loudest in demanding that austerity not be imposed on those who did not cause this economic crisis. American Labor and progressives need to be protesting in the streets to ensure that their voices are heard. In my opinion, the most important lesson from the Occupy Movement is that one must shout until one can no longer be ignored. As long as labor continues to grumble silently it will be ignored. Politicians are a reactive species and normally they react only as a result of continued pressure. There are few (if any) proactive politicians. As long as American labor and progressives remain silent, we will be ignored. I hope the U.S. Occupy and labor movement is watching the protests that are taking place in Europe and that they begin to follow their examples.