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From The Socialist newspaper, 25 March 2009

Mass demo in New York against budget cuts

ON THURSDAY 5 March, over ten blocks on Broadway, from City Hall to Canal Street, were filled with workers protesting against budget cuts, at what was called the "Rally for New York".

Jesse Lessinger, Socialist Alternative (CWI in the US)

The demonstration of at least 50,000 was called by a coalition of trade unions and community organisations, led by the big public-sector unions.

Facing a budget deficit of $14 billion for the coming fiscal year - the biggest in state history - Governor Paterson is proposing massive cuts to state spending on health care, education and other services. And despite billions coming into New York state from the federal stimulus package, there will still be cuts and pressure on workers to make concessions.

New York City is being hit especially hard with the fallout from Wall Street. Almost 50,000 jobs were lost in 2008 and the 2009 projection is for job losses three times as high.

New York City also has a budget deficit of over $4 billion. Earlier this year, Mayor Bloomberg threatened to lay off 23,000 workers, 15,000 coming from the Department of Education. This was an exaggerated threat, used mainly as a scare tactic. The federal aid for education seems, at least for now, to have prevented this level of mass layoffs. Nonetheless, the tactic laid the groundwork for demanding concessions from the city workers' unions.

'Shared sacrifice'

The main leadership of the demonstration called the action primarily to support legislation called the "Fair Share Tax Reform", which would increase taxes on the wealthy. However, this particular tax reform, while helping somewhat, would only reduce the magnitude of the painful cuts.

Socialists argue that workers are not responsible for this crisis and should not have to pay for it. Instead of talking about 'shared sacrifice' and other weak demands put forward by the union leaders, we say there should be no cuts and no layoffs and that the rich should pay for the crisis of their system.

This demonstration represented the first mass mobilisation in New York City against cuts in the context of the world economic crisis and was an important first step.

Over the last couple of years, activism and workers' struggles in the city have been almost non-existent. The last major battle was the 2005 transit workers strike, which ended in defeat.

Unfortunately, the union leadership will mainly see this demo as an exercise in blowing off steam and will be in no hurry to mobilise their members in the near future.

Workers must seek to develop their own political voice. The unions backing a 'no cuts' slate in the local elections, independent of the two major parties, would have a tremendous impact in rallying thousands of workers behind a campaign to stop the cuts.

The unions should also broaden the struggle and take a bolder stance; first demanding that workers not pay for the crisis, but also condemning the bank bailouts and demanding a bailout for working people.

We must build campaigns against the cuts, layoffs, and foreclosures, for single-payer health care, for living wage jobs and massive public works programmes. These campaigns must be linked together in a general struggle to defend the interests of workers and youth.

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Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
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In The Socialist 25 March 2009:

Capitalist crisis: Make the bosses pay!

March for jobs!

Map of Youth March for Jobs route

Socialist Party editorial

Tide of job losses must be fought

Socialist Party election campaign

Rail union launches euro election challenge

An appeal from Bob Crow

No2EU Financial Appeal pdf

NO2EU Supporter appeal pdf

Socialist Party campaigns

Students need a mass fighting organisation

Credit crunch hits home

Campaign for a new workers' party

MPs - an honourable profession!

Fast News

Socialist Party feature

The uncaring care sector

Pay for your own vetting

Socialist Party marxist analysis

State repression in Britain

Keeping (illegal) tabs on us

International socialist news and analysis

France: Three million take to the streets in national strike

Canada: "Fighting back makes a difference"

Mass demo in New York against budget cuts

Scotland: International Socialists conference a big step forward

Dundee Prisme occupation: Workers remain defiant

Stop the slaughter of Tamils: London campaign meeting

Socialist Party workplace news

Nom-dom jobs slasher

New allegations hit Unison's right wing

Unison Four to face further hearings

Wales: United battle needed to stop college cuts

Fighting for justice for cleaners!

PCS Land Registry jobs and pay campaign

Workplace news in brief


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