Wall Street office cleaners join march for better jobs
By Michelle Nichols and Paula Rogo
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Hundreds of office cleaners and guards marched on Wednesday near Wall Street demanding good jobs and protesting economic inequality, while a smaller group of demonstrators rallied at JPMorgan Chase's skyscraper.
The marches were part of a growing Occupy Wall Street movement, the month-long protests that have inspired solidarity rallies planned for Thursday at some 90 U.S. college campuses. Demonstrations have occurred in more than 1,400 cities around the world.
The movement began on September 17, when protesters set up camp in a park near Wall Street in Lower Manhattan, upset that the billions of dollars in bank bailouts doled out during the recession allowed them to resume earning huge profits while average Americans have had no relief from high unemployment and job insecurity.
Participants also say they are angry that the richest 1 percent of Americans do not pay their fair share of taxes.
More than 750 cleaners, security guards and other building service workers converged on the financial district to march for better-paying jobs, while at a nearby rally outside a JPMorgan Chase skyscraper police said about 100 people simply walked around the building and then returned to their camp in the park.
Police said they arrested four people at the bank building.
Barricades had been placed outside the JPMorgan Chase building in preparation for the protest, and many police officers stood on duty.
The building service workers union, the Service Employees International Union, which organized the march, said contracts for tens of thousands of workers are about to expire.
"We're out here because there's no jobs and we're about to lose our jobs. We're tired and we're fed up and we need these people in here to hear us," said Carla Thomas, 47, a building security guard, gesturing toward Wall Street.
At a rally in San Francisco, 11 protesters were arrested on Wednesday when up to 200 people demonstrated at the Wells Fargo corporate headquarters, blocking entrances and sticking posters on the building, one which read: "My bank went to bail-out land and all I got was a lousy recession."
Protestors appear to be directing frustration at JP Morgan Chase's high-profile chief executive, Jamie Dimon.
About 500 protesters on Tuesday met on Manhattan's upscale Upper East Side, marching past the homes of Dimon, hedge fund manager John Paulson, media mogul Rupert Murdoch and David Koch, co-founder of energy firm Koch Industries.
Several of those being criticized by the protesters have shown understanding, sympathy or support for the Occupy Wall Street movement, including a U.S. Federal Reserve official, President Barack Obama and some corporate executives.
Citigroup Chief Executive Vikram Pandit said on Wednesday that the sentiments of the protesters were "completely understandable" and that he would be happy to speak with them.
"Trust has been broken between financial institutions and the citizens of the U.S., and that is Wall Street's job, to reach out to Main Street and rebuild that trust," he told a business breakfast hosted by Fortune magazine.
Bill Gross, manager of PIMCO, the world's biggest bond fund, posted on Twitter late on Tuesday: "Class warfare by the 99%? Of course, they're fighting back after 30 years of being shot at."
A Reuters/Ipsos poll found on Wednesday that 82 percent of Americans have heard of the Occupy Wall Street protest movement, and 38 percent feel favorably toward it. Thirty-five percent are undecided, and about one-quarter are unfavorable.
Hundreds of people have been arrested in previous rallies in New York, and police have used pepper spray on protesters.
Demonstrators were arrested in Washington, Boston and Chicago on Tuesday at protests inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement.
(Additional reporting by Jennifer Ablan in New York, Braden Reddall and Mary Slosson in San Francisco, Editing by Philip Barbara)
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