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Bronx, N.Y., activists: ‘Defeat Bloomberg cutbacks!’

Published Jun 9, 2011 10:06 PM

As workers face mass layoffs, pension theft and cutbacks of every kind, people protest with greater frequency. With the New York City budget up for debate in the City Council this June, these protests are starting to come together.

New York’s billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg is proposing to eliminate 6,000 teachers’ jobs. He’ll shut down more than 20 schools, along with 20 fire houses and more than 20 hospitals. He’ll cut $100 million from public libraries. His budget slashes childcare and senior services and housing subsidies, and it eliminates thousands of city workers’ jobs.

On June 4 leaders and members of several Bronx and northern Manhattan organizations held an Action Assembly to plan resistance to the mayor’s pro-banker, anti-people budget. The meeting was the first of several action assemblies called by New Yorkers Against Budget Cuts. Others are planned for Manhattan’s Lower East Side on June 10, Brooklyn on June 11 and Staten Island on June 14.

The question taken up by these assemblies is simple: how to stop Bloomberg’s disastrous budget of layoffs and cutbacks, which will be voted on sometime this month. The Bronx assembly came up with a bold answer: Go to the June 14 public employees’ rally at City Hall and — taking a page from the inspiring public square occupations from Egypt to Wisconsin to Spain — stay there until the budget is either voted down or stopped.

Whether the goal of stopping Bloomberg’s banker budget is successful or not, the assembly members vowed to continue the campaign so that it grows into a larger anti-austerity movement and People’s Assembly later this year.

All this is happening as the federal government is holding the gun of the “debt ceiling” deadline to the people’s head in order to extort another $1 trillion in cuts, which include cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and public employee pensions. In New York state, Gov. Andrew Cuomo got the State Assembly and Senate to pass a similar budget: cutting taxes for the corporations and the rich while drastically slashing education, social services and the public sector in general.

Of course, there was no “ceiling” when the federal government handed Wall Street banks and firms $12 trillion to back up the money they gambled away. Now that the economy has stalled and production is down, the same Wall Street crooks need more money to play with — so they’re coming after pensions and social programs.

Bronx Action Assembly unites against cutbacks

The leaders in the Bronx Action Assembly took a major step against this onslaught of cutbacks on June 4 by bringing their various organizations together under one roof. Representatives from groups such as the People Power Movement, Bail Out the People Movement, Picture the Homeless, The Freedom Party, Students United-CUNY, Coalition for Public Education, South Bronx Community Congress, CASA and members of several public sector unions — all came together to fuse their separate struggles into a broader campaign against cutbacks.

Mark Torres, a teacher and a leader in the People Power Movement, told the assembly about Fight Back Friday, an anti-school-closings movement he plans to expand into a campaign for greater popular control of schools. Referring to Bloomberg’s “mayoral control” of the city’s schools — which the mayor has used to push an anti-union, charter-school agenda — Torres said, “Mayoral control of schools is nothing but a dictatorship.”

Another assembly participant, Johnnie Stevens, a member of Parents to Improve School Transportation — PIST — told Workers World that the NAACP and United Federation of Teachers had filed a joint suit recently against the growth of union-busting charter schools.

Each assembly speaker, whether from the postal workers union, student struggles or homeless organizations, spoke about how their particular struggle could play a role in this month’s showdown against Bloomberg’s cuts.

On June 3 some 15,000 firefighters marched across the Brooklyn Bridge. This came after a series of separate but significant New York demonstrations this spring: On March 24, New Yorkers Against Budget Cuts held a rally and march on Wall Street that gathered 5,000 people, many from American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees unions. Thousands joined the April 9 “We Are One” demonstration in Times Square, and 10,000 joined the May 1 convergence of union and immigrant workers. The May 12 Wall Street march brought out 20,000, including thousands of teachers.

With the May 12 organizers, now called Beyond May 12, supporting the call of NYABC to stop Bloomberg’s cuts, a more unified movement — one that can possibly stop the banker’s budget in its tracks — is now growing.