On Thursday, May 12, a demonstration of over 10,000 workers and young people wound its way across lower Manhattan. A number of unions mobilized for the protest which was called by the “Strong Economy for All Coalition”. The biggest contingent was from the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) which is facing a threatened 4,300 layoffs from New York City’s “billionaire mayor” Mike Bloomberg. On Wall Street, protesters chanted “Make the banks pay!” and “Mayor Mike; take a hike!”
While the May 12 demonstration was certainly not the biggest union mobilization in New York City in recent years, it was the most militant. There is real anger at the attacks on social services and the threats to union rights. Bloomberg’s popularity is at an all-time low.
The leaflet below was distributed by Socialist Alternative on the march and focuses on a strategy to defeat Bloomberg. We point to the need for May 12 to be the beginning of an ongoing and sustained mobilization of working people. We must not place our faith in the Democrats who say they oppose the teacher layoffs but for the most part are all too willing to make a deal that will leave large cuts in place. After all it is the new Democratic governor of the state, Andrew Cuomo, whose massive cuts package set the scene for what is happening in the city. Unfortunately and predictably it was Democratic politicians who were given pride of place at the front of the march next to the union leaders.
The coming days and weeks are a critical time in New York City. We will be working alongside others to push for the kind of action that will be necessary to halt Bloomberg’s offensive.
We Can Beat Bloomberg
...But it’s time to turn up the heat!
Mike Bloomberg claims he has “no choice” but to reduce the teacher workforce by over 6,000 and close 20 fire companies because of Federal and state cuts. Bull!
The city actually has a significant surplus. Furthermore, the $4.5 billion now spent on Department of Education private contracts and consultants will continue to grow despite massive corruption scandals. Bloomberg’s education cuts will inevitably lead to a massive increase in class size only causing more chaos for students, parents and teachers.
The billionaire mayor’s real target is the pensions and union rights of public sector workers starting with teachers’ seniority protections (or as he prefers to call it “last in, first out”). Basing layoffs on which teachers’ test scores are highest will just lead to more teaching to the test as well as giving principals the ability to target higher paid veterans and union activists. In the end degrading public sector unions will mean degrading public services.
Meanwhile profits soar on Wall Street as hundreds of thousands of city workers are either unemployed or underemployed. Incredibly, big banks and corporations keep receiving huge tax breaks and many are paying no taxes at all!
The Alternative to Cuts
It’s time to tell Mike and his corporate buddies that enough is enough. Working people shouldn’t pay a single dime for their crisis caused by the reckless gambling of financial institutions in the casinos known as “markets”.
There is absolutely no need for any cuts or layoffs. We say, tax the rich and Wall Street to hire more teachers, restore the cuts made in recent years and invest in revamping public transportation and other aspects of our crumbling infrastructure. If we really want to cut waste we should have a single-payer health care system and remove the massive waste caused by private insurance companies.
Crises, however, are inevitable under capitalism especially the increasingly parasitic form of capitalism we live under, and it demonstrates that it is a system incapable of providing decent jobs for all and social services. The fight against the cuts should be part of building a movement to fundamentally transform society to democratic socialism based on human need not an insatiable drive for profits.
How to fight back
May 12, a protest and march from City Hall to Wall Street, is a definite step forward compared to other union centered protests of recent years where workers were corralled into pens like animals, a clear violation of our constitutional right to assemble and protest.
Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, says this will not be the end of the protests which will continue until Bloomberg backs off his layoff threat. This is encouraging but we need to be clear. No reliance should be placed in Democratic politicians who will now be falling over each other to say how they oppose the mayor’s plans because they fear the electoral consequences of voting for closing fire companies and creating chaos in the schools.
Many of these same Democrats will be perfectly prepared to turn around and accept some rotten compromise which still involves big cuts and call it a “victory”. The union leaders’ strategy has been to rely on these same Democrats to bail them out at every turn, instead of mobilizing the collective strength of their membership.
The unions along with community groups, students, socialists and progressive organizations should build a broad mass movement to confront the dictatorship of Wall Street head on and defeat the cuts, layoffs and attacks on working people coming from corporate politicians like Bloomberg and Cuomo.
Together these forces must mobilize for escalating action, including mass demonstration bigger than May 12 and mass civil disobedience to put maximum pressure on the politicians. This strategy of escalation must include preparations to defy anti-union laws like the Taylor Law which prevents public sector workers from exercising their right to strike. Some may fear the consequences, but they can’t penalize us all if we unite and take action together.
Going forward this struggle should also lay the basis for standing anti-cuts candidates independent of both corporate parties in the 2012 elections to give a real voice to the movement against cuts and layoffs. We must take inspiration from the workers of Wisconsin. They mobilized repeatedly in their tens of thousands for weeks on end to oppose vicious anti-union legislation and inspired workers and young people across the country. They were prepared to step up the struggle, many calling for strike action, but the movement was derailed by the Democratic party and the top union leadership. Walker could have been and still can be defeated and we must be clear: Bloomberg can also be beaten through bold, determined and united action. If you agree with this approach to fighting the cuts and want to get active, you can sign up today to join the socialists.