June 16, 2011
By Kismet Barksdale
On June 14, 2011, District Council 37, the city’s largest public employee union, joined by labor and community groups, held a massive rally at City Hall against draconian cutbacks to community services, the fiscal assault on public schools, parks and pools, libraries, social services and public health care and more, and the drive to crush public employees’ rights from coast to coast.
Thousands of DC 37 members and supporters turned out to deliver a resounding message: “No!” to cutbacks in vital public services, “No!” to layoffs of dedicated civil servants who provide these services and “No!” to contracting out of their jobs. The rally came on the heels of a recent DC 37 report that found the city is overlooking at least $800 million that could be generated by collecting taxes and fees it is owed and cutting contractors’ charges.
DC 37 Executive Director Lillian Roberts led the rally declaring: “The Bloomberg administration claims that there is no money to stop the cuts and layoffs and pool closings in the heat of the summer. This is totally false. The Mayor and the Governor cut taxes on the wealthy by $5 billion a year when they let the state “millionaires’ tax” expire. The Mayor is making no effort to collect the hundreds of millions of dollars in business taxes owed to the city. And the mayor’s budget proposals increase contracting out by a half-billion dollars even with the continuing arrests of his overpaid consultants and overwhelming evidence that too much of this money is wasted or stolen. We’re here to say that the money is there to stop these service cuts and layoffs.”
George Gresham, President, 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, said: “Working New Yorkers from across the city came together today to tell our elected leaders that cutting jobs is not the answer. During these difficult economic times, we have to do everything possible to protect our communities. Working families should not have to bear the burden of budget cuts. Schools, hospitals and public services are all part of the vital social safety net working people need and rely on.”
Robert J. Croghan, Chairperson, Organization of Staff Analysts, said: “We know there is no need for layoffs. We know that this mayor knows there is no need for layoffs. We understand why the mayor is laying people off when there is no need for layoffs. He is doing so first, to show that he can, and secondly, to further divide the citizens of the City of New York. The rich don’t want to pay their fair share of taxes and this mayor continues to support them by making sure that the rest of us pay in loss of services.”
The DC 37 rally was also part of a larger fight against unjust attacks on public workers’ jobs and pensions nationwide. Lee Saunders, the Sec.-Treas. of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, DC 37’s national union, addressed this in his talk: “Instead of bringing us together to solve the serious problems confronting New York City and other cities and states throughout the country, politicians are telling working families to make all the sacrifices. We must fight back and force Mayor Bloomberg and all the rest to join with us to create good jobs, adequately fund vital public services and restore the middle class, the backbone of our nation.” His message was underscored by representatives from the front lines of public workers struggles in Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana who were cheered by the crowd as the spoke of their experiences.