The B.C. Federation of Labour will join the Occupy Vancouver demonstration, throwing significant union support behind the grassroots movement.
President Jim Sinclair announced Wednesday morning that members will join the protest at the Vancouver Art Gallery on Saturday, in a show of solidarity with the movement’s goals.
The B.C. Federation of Labour on Sunday initially said they had not made a decision about the movement. When asked whether the organization hesitated because they feared a backlash, Mr. Sinclair said no.
British Columbians share many of the values of the Occupy Wall Street movement, he said.
The Occupy Wall Street protest in New York, which has spread to other U.S. cities, also gained the support of labour unions.
“It may not be 99 per cent against 1 per cent, but it is close,” he said. “British Columbians have seen their income decreased and the gap between the rich and poor grow.”
Mr. Sinclair said he did not know how many union members would join the protest, but he was optimistic that they would show their support. He said they would remain at the demonstration as long as it remained peaceful.
“This is a non-violent movement,” he said. “Of course, violent people can show up anywhere. They can show up at a hockey game, as we know.”
The labour federation represents 500,000 members of unions in the province. The announcement lends clout and organizing skills to a movement that has been criticized as unfocused.
Occupy Vancouver operates on a consensus basis and has attracted a mix of experienced activists and newcomers. Organizer Kevin Kelso said he was “ecstatic” about the announcement.
“They’re a very serious and well-organized group,” he said. “They know how to support a cause.”
He said the movement was focused on workers’ rights.
“Unions are a good example of people coming together to show their collective power,” he said.
Expectations for the Vancouver protest are growing since a planning meeting this past weekend attracted hundreds.