John Fleck is a blunt man. When he says he's seen social inequality for more than twenty years, he means it. Fleck has been a labor union rep for the same amount of time, which makes him particularly well equipped to speak out against that inequality on behalf of the Denver Area Labor Federation as its current president. Earlier this week, the group voted unanimously to come out in public support of Occupy Denver, a decision which, though it still has its exceptions, adds a symbolic 50,000 people to the line behind the movement.
Earlier today, Westword quizzed Fleck on his federation's reasons for uniting with the movement and what that means for the near futures of both.
Westword: What motivated the decision to publicly support Occupy Denver?
John Fleck: It came from the national unions, and then there was interest locally. One percent of the country controls -- literally controls --- the other 99 percent. Their message is the same thing about the economic and political inequality of the corporations of the unions as we believe. I've been a labor union rep for twenty-plus years, and dealing with inequality is what I do every day. The group is in line with what we're doing, and it was a natural decision.
WW: Was there any reason you united with the group now, after the most recent rally?
JF: We just didn't have time early on, so it came after our monthly meeting on the 27th. It wasn't specifically because of the events over the weekend, though we were paying attention, of course. We have been aware of the group for a while, and we finally put it to a vote. Of the delegates in attendance, the vote was unanimous in support of Occupy Denver. We are definitely part of the 99 percent, and we want our voices to be heard and their voices to be heard. Maybe they can be heard together.
WW: Was the federation at all concerned with Occupy Denver's public reputation?
JF: I think everybody has concerns with others trying to take over the movement. We're not part of that contingent, nor do we want to take over the movement. That's what I'll say. We don't say that we support every single thing the guys at Occupy Denver are doing, but we don't think they should be stopped or silenced in any way, and we want them to grow and develop so that they actually have a chance to change things.
WW: What was your first experience with the occupation?
JF: To be honest, I didn't understand it to begin with. It was a little blip in the news in the beginning, and then I don't even remember how they started to occupy here. One day, I went down there, and I go down there as often as I can now. I've been there most Saturdays and go a couple times a week. I've never been there late enough to be there for a dangerous situation, but myself and many others have been down there several times. I was there the first night they were doing to have problems with the tents. We've been watching it grow into Pueblo, Fort Collins, Boulder, and I think more people should come down on the side of those guys, honestly.
WW: What is the eventual plan for the federation's support of Occupy Denver? Is it mostly symbolic, or will you be joining forces at all?
JF: That will be based more on union to union. We represent about sixty unions, and they will probably make their own decisions as time passes in that area. To be honest, Occupy Denver has never asked for anything monetarily, so that's never been our agenda. Me personally, I've given them money -- not a lot -- but I've bought buttons and T-shirts and donated. We're working with a couple of their PR and media folks on that committee to blend the events we're doing with ideals they reflect. We're in contact with them, and they're in contact with us.
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WW: So, will the two be uniting in a more material way?
JF: We're in communication.
Here's the union announcement.
More from our Occupy Denver archive: "Occupy Denver: Michael Moore calls CBS4 reporter "punk media" liar -- on CBS4 (VIDEO)."