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Unions back Occupy D.C. by providing showers, amenities
The Washington Times
Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Some of the country’s biggest and most powerful unions are providing the infrastructure and amenities to keep the Occupy D.C. encampment fortified going into the winter.

The camp’s portable toilets are being provided by the Service Employees International Union, the 2.1-million-member union that helped elect President Obama and recently backed his re-election bid.

The estimated 100 demonstrators staying each night in McPherson Square, just blocks from the White House, can take a hot shower at the AFL-CIO headquarters on 16th Street Northwest.

“We happen to have a few showers associated with our small gym. From [10 a.m. to noon] we make those showers available,” said Jeff Hauser, spokesman for the AFL-CIO, the international labor union with more than 12 million members. “It happened kind of naturally. We’ve talked with them about the needs they’ve expressed. This really helps them, and it’s not a heavy lift on our part.”

A demonstrator said the encampment has designated a “shower coordinator” who takes Occupy D.C.-ers to the union’s gym showers.

Demonstrators with the Occupy D.C. take to the streets of downtown Washington, D.C., Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2011, to show support for the Occupy Wall Street movement. (Rod Lamkey Jr./The Washington Times)The tent-filled encampment, established in early October, also has a first-aid station with supplies and voluntary medical assistance from the National Nurses United, the country's largest union and association of professional nurses.

Spokeswoman Donna Smith said Wednesday nurses are volunteering at Occupy encampments across the country.

“It’s the basic things, little things for people who are outdoors for a period of time,” she said. “And it’s good to have that kind of interaction.”

While officials have dismantled similar camps in New York City and Oakland, the Occupy D.C. camp appears to be getting more organized and fortified, with a library, media center and its own newspapers.

“The rise of inequality, the job crisis. We’re thankful their creative energy and persistence has helped elevate these critical issues,” Mr. Hauser continued. “We want to be supportive.”

Unions are also helping a second, smaller encampment on Freedom Plaza, also near the White House, with showers — and a free towel service.

“We have fresh, clean towels, enough for once a week to swap them out,” said Carrie Biggs-Adams, of Communications Workers of America. “We have toiletries, shampoo, conditioner and bars of soap, because you might not have those. [Demonstrators] don’t necessarily bring the house with them.”

Kevin Zeese, an organizer of the October 2011/Stop the Machine movement on Freedom Plaza said: “It is heartening to see so many Americans from the business community, faith community, unions and others providing us with the basic necessities like food, clothing and shelter.”

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