May Day in Raleigh, N.C.

March to confront austerity, attacks on working class

Historic Thousands on Jones Street march, Feb. 9, Raleigh, N.C.Photo: North Carolina Student Power Union

Historic Thousands on Jones Street march, Feb. 9, Raleigh, N.C.
Photo: North Carolina Student Power Union

Durham, N.C. — With extreme right-wing ideologues in the Legislature and governor’s seat, backed by a well-funded conservative political machine, the working class in North Carolina faces unprecedented attacks and swiftly degrading material conditions. In the face of this social crisis, workers, youth and students are mobilizing for a mass May Day march and rally in Raleigh, the state capital.

The North Carolina Student Power Union, a grassroots statewide organization and movement, has been hard at work since its February conference fighting attacks on public education and public services. Its current campaign raises opposition to the regressive budget drawn up by state budget director, Art Pope, a wealthy CEO and conservative oligarch who seeks to divest nearly $200 million from the North Carolina public university system.

If passed, the budget would also lay off thousands of workers, including teachers’ assistants and campus workers. It would force nearly 8,500 students off of need-based financial aid, making access to higher education out of reach for many.

These attacks on public higher education are emblematic of a broader redistribution strategy that seeks to privatize and defund public services while increasing the accumulated wealth of the ruling class. Perhaps the most telling component of the budget is a repeal of the estate tax, which applies only to estates worth more than $5 million. Though only the 23 wealthiest estates in North Carolina are subject to the tax, repealing it would cost the state more than $50 million a year.

Other attacks by the North Carolina Legislature include a proposal to amend the state’s constitution to include GS 95/98 — the state right-to-work (for less) law — a clear attack on workers’ rights and unions. Another proposed constitutional amendment would enshrine the state’s Jim Crow-era ban on collective bargaining for public sector workers.

After the Legislature refused federal-funded Medicaid expansion for an estimated 500,000 poor residents, Gov. Pat McCrory recently revealed a plan to privatize Medicaid by selling off part of the state’s Medicaid program to out-of-state, for-profit companies.

In addition, right-wing lawmakers are also pushing to eliminate the corporate and personal income tax at a cost of billions to the state, while simultaneously raising the sales tax, which disproportionately hurts low-income families.

Targeting Black and Brown people

These legislative attacks are also deeply racialized. Lawmakers proposed closing one or two campuses, which would undoubtedly target historically Black colleges and universities and working-class campuses.

The white supremacist majority is currently pushing forth racist voter repressive legislation to impose electoral barriers on communities of color, youth, women and the poor.

Right-wing lawmakers have also introduced an Arizona-style immigration bill that would allow law enforcement officers to check the legal status of anyone they stop and detain them for up to 24 hours. This will encourage racial profiling and increased police repression of immigrant communities.

Those in power are waging war on working people in North Carolina. They seek to implement a dangerous vision where public higher education is dismantled, public services are privatized, and Jim-Crow era white hegemony is reclaimed.

A May Day demonstration could not be occurring at a more critical moment in the state political climate. The NCSPU is organizing a statewide youth and student contingent to join the broader May Day worker and immigrant march and rally at the state Legislature.

Now more than ever, working-class struggles in North Carolina must be united in raising voices of opposition to this right-wing agenda. North Carolina serves as a key stronghold in the U.S. South with a rich organizing and civil rights legacy.

If we don’t want the futures of our youth to be stolen, mass resistance is the only option.