Guest Post: On Occupy Supply by Brian Sonenstein at Firedoglake:
(Bumped to the top for the weekend)
At Firedoglake, our network of member volunteers started a project to help the Occupy Movement survive the winter. It started as a road trip with FDL Dissenter reporter Kevin Gosztola visiting different occupations across the Midwest, delivering cold weather supplies to the protesters he met along the way. We raised money for the road trip as part of a campaign we called the Occupy Supply Fund, and committed 100% of the donations to buying and delivering supplies to the protesters and occupations who needed them most.
It was an immediate success, and the occupations Kevin visited were very grateful for the help. But we knew that Kevin would never make it to enough occupations before winter to make a real impact, and our members and activists wanted very much to help. Here at The Rude Pundit, the Blanket the Earth campaign you all have organized is providing a beautiful and important structure for folks to donate their secondhand and store-bought goods to their local occupations. At FDL, we took a slightly different tact, deciding the most efficient thing we could do as a community with our time and resources was to buy as much regionally- and union-made cold weather gear as possible -- from jackets and hats to sleeping bags and generators -- and immediately ship them out to protests across the country.
We got to work. Our founder Jane Hamsher assumed what turned out to be the unfortunately Herculean task of sourcing regional, American and Union made cold weather clothing from what remains of the American textile industry. It was a truly eye-opening experience, and as Jane wrote at FDL:
"It was not an easy task to source all of these union suppliers, and it was extraordinarily depressing. The garment manufacturing industry in the United States has been decimated by NAFTA. Link after link to once thriving union shops were dead, even in the past few years. They went out of business. They were gobbled up and gutted, or the jobs went overseas. Or both.
"Which leads right back to Occupy Wall Street. As American manufacturing goes, so goes the American middle class — which was built on manufacturing jobs. 'Decline' is too delicate of a word to describe what happened. American manufacturing and the middle class economic stability that went with it were sabotaged by cooperation between leaders of both political parties."
The Occupy Supply fund is not only supporting the occupy protesters, but we’re putting our money where our mouths are, and using our purchasing power to support American manufacturing jobs, fair wages, and full benefits.
The next challenge was to develop a network to get this stuff out there, because we didn’t just want to ship boxes of supplies to the occupations -- we wanted to show up and let the protesters see some of the faces of the people who are working hard to support them. So we tapped our members to volunteer as what we call Occupy Supply Liaisons.
These Liaisons are the kind souls who visit occupations regularly, talking to and establishing relationships with protesters, keeping tabs of the size of their encampments and the issues affecting them, compiling requests for supplies and working directly with the fund to receive shipments and deliver them back at camp. Our goal is to have liaisons create lasting relationships with occupations so we can continue to help them long after the winter.
We now have Liaisons in over 40 states across the country, and in some place multiple liaisons working together at a single occupation. Our shipments have begun to arrive over the past week and my colleague Ryan Cook has been working frantically sending shipments out of Jane’s basement each day.
In just over a month, the Occupy Supply fund has raised an incredible $140,000, of which we’ve spent over $82,000 solely on supplies - and we are constantly updating our stock to meet the various needs of the protesters. We’ve bought jackets, hats, base layers, sleeping bags, tents, generators, Tiny Homes, foodstuffs, and so much more -- and all of this has been and continues to be personally delivered by dedicated, passionate FDL volunteers.
And on Monday we launched our next stage of the project to give folks another way to show their support and aid the occupations: the Occupy Supply store. For every item you buy, we’ll match it with a donation of the same item to an occupier in need. Every item in our store is Union made in the USA.
We are so pleased with the enthusiasm we have seen so far for helping this important protest against greed and inequality. I hope you will check out the Occupy Supply fund and support our efforts to prepare the protesters for winter alongside the wonderful work you are all doing here.