NEW YORK, Oct. 4 (UPI) -- Several top unions Tuesday threw their support behind protests on Wall Street and across the nation demanding U.S. social and economic policy change.
The American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, the Communications Workers of America and the Amalgamated Transit Workers Union all issued statements supporting the Occupy Wall Street Movement.
AFSCME President Gerald McEntee and Secretary-Treasurer Lee Saunders called the protests a "Main Street Movement" and said "Priority # 1 should be rebuilding Main Street, not fueling the power of corporate CEOs and their marionette politicians."
McEntee and Saunders said the economic downturn "that has wrecked so many lives, obliterated jobs, and left millions of Americans homeless and hopeless is the fault of banks that gamble with our future. Their reckless pursuit of profits, at the expense of working families' pursuit of the American dream, must come to an end."
The CWA Executive Board said the union's 700,000 members "strongly support the Occupy Wall Street Movement," which it called "an appropriate expression of anger for all Americans."
"We support the activists' non-violent efforts to seek a more equitable and democratic society based on citizenship, not corporate greed," the CWA statement said.
Amalgamated Transit Union International President Larry Hanley said Occupy Wall Street protesters "are speaking for the vast majority of Americans who are frustrated by the bankers and brokers who have profited on the backs of hard working people."
"While we battle it out day after day, month after month, the millionaires and billionaires on Wall Street sit by -- untouched -- and lecture us on the level of our sacrifice. It's about time this happened," Hanley said.
The protests have spread from New York to many other cities -- including Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, Denver, Seattle, Charlotte, N.C., and Albuquerque -- driven by social media Web sites.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke was asked about the protests Tuesday during testimony on Capitol Hill. Sen. Bernie Sanders, Ind-Vt., asked Bernanke whether "Wall Street's greed and recklessness caused this recession that led to so many people losing their jobs?"
"Excessive risk taking on Wall Street had a lot to do with it and so did some failures on the part of regulators," Bernanke said.
Sanders asked whether federal bank regulations "have made any significant progress since the collapse of Wall Street to suggest that we will not ... once again see a collapse on Wall Street and the necessity of a bailout?"
Bernanke said the government was "making substantial progress" but he noted many rules provided for in financial sector reform legislation "are not yet enforced or fully implemented."