Mona Dubay worked as a trainer at a recent event to teach area residents about non violent direct action.
They gathered to form a local community of people committed to non violent direct action to forge a more just economy.
They shrugged off shame and shared stories to discover what connected them and build solidarity.
They learned about what broke the economy, studied past responses, created a vision for the future and prepared themselves for non violent direct action.
“We came together because our country is in crisis,” said Mona Dubay, a trainer at a local meeting in Plattsburgh of the 99 percent Spring. “But this isn’t the end of anything. It is the beginning.”
The training was part of a nationwide movement with a goal to train at least 100,000 people in non violent direction action.
We are the 99 percent refers to the increased concentration of wealth since the 1970s, though some argue it dates back much further, among the top 1 percent of income earners.
Between 1979 and 2007, incomes of the 1 percent grew 275 percent, while during that same time the income of Americans in the middle of the income scale saw their income rise 40 percent, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Since 1979, the average pre-tax income for the bottom 90 percent of households decreased by $900, while those in the 1 percent saw their income soar by more than $700,000.
Between 1992 and 2007, the top 400 income earners watched their income increase 392 percent and their average tax rate drop by 37 percent.
As the economy expanded between 2002 and 2007, the 1 percent’s income grew 10 times faster than that of the bottom 90 percent.
During the Great Recession, most households grappled with a 36 percent drop in median household income while the top 1 percent only experienced a decrease of 11 percent.
“We are working on the idea of community today,” said Dubay. “We have been hearing a lot about the 99 percent.”
Those gathered introduced themselves, using words to describe themselves, such as hope, peace, dismay, hopelessness, frustration and corruption.
They watched a short video on the history of non violence resistance, which featured such events as Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat to make room for a white passenger on Dec. 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama.
The video touched on Delano, California where mostly Filipino workers walked off the farms of table-grape growers, demanding wages equal to minimum wage. Cesar Chavez joined the strike and thus was born the United Farm Workers in 1966. The group eventually succeeded in reaching a collective bargaining agreement that benefited thousands.
The video further touched on globalized capital and the shipping of jobs overseas, rising student debt, rampant foreclosures and more.
It ended with testimonials from individuals describing themselves as part of the 99 percent, page after page of testimonials from individuals who worked hard at their jobs and are now unemployed, underemployed, lacking adequate health care and on the verge of ruin.
Those gathered also shared their own stories of losing their jobs and trying to care for their families with inadequate health care. They struggled with threats to social security and Medicare, corporate greed, tax inequality, housing issues and loosing their basic civil rights.
“People are being forced to do things that are illegal or unethical just to survive,” said Jenn Colver.
“We all have challenges that come out,” Dubay said.
The group included workers, the unemployed, disabled, parents, grandparents, veterans, students, women, men and young and old.
They want a future where there is fairness, peace, economic justice, good health care for all, clear thinking is encouraged, tax equity, education is a right and consumerism is not the national religion.
They talked about building a strong middle class with the help of laws that came out of the Great Depression and then the systematic attack, starting in the early 1970s, by corporations on the American free enterprise system. Through deregulation and more, they said, corporations have influenced policy and reaped the benefits. They attack unions to destabilize the power such groups have to fight for workers, they attack democracy and they divide Americans, pitting different groups with the same concerns against each other to prevent them from uniting.
As a result, today, 47 million Americans live in poverty and 99 percent of the country earns less than $250,000.
Yet there is hope, they said, because there is one other type of power besides money, and that is organized people.
“If we could all come together, we have power,” Dubay said. “That is really what we are talking about.”
Rachelle Armstrong believes there is great potential for people to stand on common ground and identify what unites them so they can work together for positive change.
“This movement emphasizes a common humanity, and we need a new generation of activists to participate in direct action,” she said. “We need to start talking to our neighbors and sharing our stories, because we are so isolated and don’t understand how connected we are.”