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By Daniel Massey

October 23, 2011

Unions and community groups collaborate with Occupy Wall Street protesters to share tactics, bring flexibility and creativity to overlooked campaigns.

On a soggy day last week, 15 Occupy Wall Street protesters huddled in a Citibank ATM vestibule on the Upper East Side. They rehearsed lines for a mock trial of Sotheby's, the art auction house that has been locked in a dispute with 43 art handlers for nearly three months. Then they synched up their cellphone clocks, readied video cameras and departed in small groups into a steady rain, with plans to reunite on the seventh floor of the auction house at 10:32 a.m.

As an auctioneer opened the bidding on Lot 443 of the Lily & Edmond J. Safra collections—writer John Morley's Diderot and the Encyclopaedists—the “court of the 99%” was called to order. The stunt ended quickly, with security moving in, but not before protesters proclaimed Sotheby's “guilty.” A spokeswoman for Sotheby's said that attempts to interrupt sales have been unsuccessful and that workers have been “offered a fair and reasonable contract.”

The ongoing collaboration between Occupy Wall Street and the Sotheby's workers is just one example of how the city's labor and community groups are piggybacking on the movement to further campaigns that were already under way before the protests began. From a demonstration Friday that called for Verizon to reach a fair contract with its workers to an impromptu millionaire's tax rally that targeted “Governor 1%” Andrew Cuomo, the protests have given new energy to campaigns that had struggled for traction before the occupation began.

“We're learning from each other; that's the dynamic now,” said Austin Guest, a staffer at advocacy group Alliance for a Greater New York, who has joined in the protest since the start. “Organizations are learning how to take risks, how to improvise, how to march on the street without a permit and not be afraid. In turn, we're sharing the organizing savvy, political connections and deep community ties that we've built up through decades.”...

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