It has finally happened! What no one else has managed to do–unite labor, community and students–Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Governor Andrew Cuomo are accomplishing.
March 24 is the beginning. For the last few weeks, hundreds of organizational representatives have been meeting, some in Manhattan, others in the South Bronx, to discuss creating a permanent New York coalition against the budget cuts. They now have agreed to hold a March 24 rally at City Hall (at 5 p.m.) with a massive march to Wall Street. Among the groups, which include labor organizations, are DC37, TWU, Teamsters and PSC. Among some of the community groups are Picture the Homeless, the South Bronx Community Congress, Bail Out the People and many others. Political groups include the Freedom Party and CUNY student movements.
The coalition is growing everyday–with a common understanding that unless we walk together, we cannot challenge the state-city austerity budget that will devastate unions, communities and students, while letting the rich off the hook. Groups are finally beginning to understand that we need a common agenda and strategy.
The proposals made by the Cuomo administration include draconian cuts in education, health care and other social services. This, while he refuses to extend the millionaires tax and not even consider reinstituting a stock transfer tax. Cuomo says he is standing up to the “special interests,” but the special interests he stands up to are the workers, students and the poor–not the wealthy, the powerful and Wall Street.
I had the opportunity to read Matt Taibbi’s recent article in Rolling Stone magazine on “Why Wall Street Was Not Indicted.” After reading that article it is clear that Wall Street should gladly accept a stock transfer tax, as many companies are lucky their officials did not wind up in jail.
The growing coalition realizes that we need revenue-generating proposals to avoid these cuts. We need to propose our own budget rather than wind up fighting for the crumbs they want to leave us.
Bloomberg’s budget proposals include the closing of 200 senior citizen centers and 20 fire houses, the layoff of 5,000 teachers and countless cuts in services for youth, the homeless and the poor. His “LIFO” proposals for teachers will open the door to the elimination of seniority for all workers. He argues that these drastic cuts are necessary, while predicting over a $2 billion surplus for next year.
Both Cuomo and Bloomberg have stated that the deficits for next year will even be greater; March 24 is the beginning of a collective response to Bloomberg and Cuomo. Even the correctional officers union, usually conservative, is calling for an extension of the millionaire’s tax and reinstitution of the stock transfer tax.
Some would have us believe that Cuomo and Bloomberg are not like Governor Walker in Wisconsin, as they are not taking away collective bargaining. The defect in this analysis is that if you allow unions to bargain but at the same time freeze their wages, make them pay more for pensions and health care benefits and take away other benefits, you are in fact taking away their bargaining.
On March 24, hundreds of community organizations must say we shall stand up with labor as union members live in our communities. On March 24, unions and their members must stand up with the community and oppose any cuts in neighborhood services. And both groups must support our CUNY students.
If there has ever been a time to call for unity it is now. We must put aside our petty differences and work together. The rich and powerful are united and stand against us. They use Cuomo and one of their own, Bloomberg, as instruments to advance their agenda.
Will you march with me on March 24? Will you march with members of TWU, DC37, 1199, 32BJ, ATU and other unions? Will you march with some of the UFT teachers? Will you march with the seniors, the young and the homeless? Will you march with the Freedom Party and Bail Out the People?
March 24 is the beginning.