The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet's guest contributor program, which is separate from the company's news coverage.
NEW YORK (
) -- As the
Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement commemorates its two-month anniversary, we pause to reflect on what this group has achieved.
For one, the group has secured visible backing from organized labor. They now have the support of the most powerful organizing group in the country. The home page of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) even helps people to find an OWS location near them so that they can protest.
It also has given them that elusive cause. It is income inequality. The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, commonly AFL-CIO, is helping to support this cause. On their homepage is the headline, "CEO Pay: Feeding the 1%." So the attack is expanding beyond Wall Street to anyone running a company. But, that's not really support for the new OWS cause; attacking CEO pay has been a key talking point for the AFL-CIO for ages. OWS is just giving them a very visible outlet.
There is no doubt that income inequality is rising in the U.S., but income inequality is inherent in a capitalistic system. If you want income equality, you use a communist system. In that case income is equal and everyone is poor. Everyone is demotivated, too. What's the point of working hard when a colleague is barely working and everyone gets the same? Anyway, that doesn't sound like a great cause that Americans should be rallying around. The nation did spend 40 years fighting a Cold War so we could keep our free market system.
If the bigger problem is rising inequality, the unions don't need to protest about this, they can actually do something to fix it. Today, the number of unskilled workers in the U.S. is rising at a time when the number of unskilled jobs is declining.
This is related to increasing dropout rates in middle school, high school and college. People that don't graduate from high school are in the lowest 20% of wage earners. Those with a high-school degree move into the lowest 30% to 40%. If this education problem is fixed, income equality reverses its course and so does America's declining standard of living which is another organized labor hot button.
On Nov. 15, the executive board of the Teamsters passed a resolution giving official support for OWS. In the resolution they express outrage over declining standards of living, the foreclosure crisis, out-of-control health care costs, attacks on pensions and corporations sitting on cash.
That's a long list, but they can't all be blamed on the 1%. The government has its hands all over the mortgage crisis and out of control health care costs. One year past passage of the Affordable Care Act and premiums, deductibles and co-pays are expected to be 10% higher this year. As to the attack on pensions: why should 77% of union workers have guaranteed pensions when 80% of non-union workers have to provide their own? Maybe that's not an area of inequality that is relevant to this protest.
So OWS finally has a professional organizer and a cause. Is it really their cause? Comments from non-union OWS "leaders" are still taking about changing the way society is structured, the human struggle against oppression and saving the planet.
You really have to wonder if organized labor is really sympathetic to "the cause" or they are opportunists seizing the chance to air their cause nationwide.
Teamster president James P. Hoffa said, "You can draw a direct line from the Wisconsin protests in the winter to Occupy Wall Street..." But that line can be extended further. Also front and center on the home page of the SEIU website is the "SEIU Endorses President Obama for Re-election." Maybe this is the real OWS cause and this is its real leader. Saul Alinsky would be proud.