For two days now, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America have been staging a protest outside my office building. The protesters, many recruited from local homeless shelters, are bundled up in winter coats and snow hats, beating big white paint buckets with drumsticks and marching in circles, chanting. Their goal? Shame the construction company renovating our building into paying better wages and ending 1099 misclassification.

But inside the building, it’s Washington as usual.  The construction workers are already hard at work, and the office workers are filing into the lobby in their pea coats and dress pants, clutching five-dollar Starbucks lattes. The only noticeable impact I’ve been able to discern is that those of us tapping away at our keyboards have turned up the volume on our Ipods to drown out the constant noise.

This is the first time I’ve had a protest right outside my window, but it’s definitely not the first time I’ve seen these kinds of protests.  Generally, I find them refreshing; I guess some part of me is always hoping it’s making some fatcat CEO a little nervous. But now that it’s right outside my window, I feel, frankly, frustrated.  If these workers aren’t getting paid, isn’t there something the tenants of this building could be doing to help them? Why aren’t we being engaged??

And what ever DOES come of these protests? Are they ever successful in producing change?

Inquiring minds want to know!