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On the picket line

April 11, 2003 | Page 10


Columbia graduate students
New York City teachers against the war

New York City health care

By Michael Ware

ALBANY, N.Y.--About 37,000 health care workers rallied April 1, to protest $2 billion in cuts to state health care programs proposed by Gov. George Pataki. Service Employees International Union Local 1199 and the Greater New York Hospital Association organized the rally.

Pataki claims that deep spending cuts are needed to avoid "job-killing tax increases." The union estimates that the cuts will eliminate 22,000 jobs, in addition to the 4,000 jobs already eliminated through attrition. Meanwhile, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg claims that revenue shortfalls could lead to $600 million in service cuts and 15,000 layoffs.

The roughly $12 billion state deficit and $4 to $5 billion deficit in New York City are the product of tax cuts for the rich. Pataki and former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani showered tax breaks on their patrons during the boom.

Once the inevitable downturn arrived, billions in surplus revenue disappeared overnight, and now the poorest New Yorkers are expected to pay with layoffs and social service cuts, like the elimination of pre-kindergarten programs.

"We're not giving anything back--we have nothing to give back," AFSCME District Council (DC) 37's Executive Director Lilian Roberts said in a recent meeting. "We're fighting to stay where we are and move beyond that. Everything we fought for could disappear."

So far, Roberts' tough talk has not been backed up with action. Although strikes by public-sector workers are illegal in New York, striking may be the union's only hope to save jobs. Hundreds of municipal workers have already received pink slips.

DC 37 has called for a 5:30 p.m. rally in New York City on April 29 at City Hall Park to fight layoffs.

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Columbia graduate students

NEW YORK--Columbia University graduate students seeking union representation held a several-hundred strong rally April 3 to mark the one-year anniversary since their union election was held. Columbia refuses to count the ballots and is appealing the election to the National Labor Relations Board in the hopes that Bush appointees will scuttle union recognition.

The rally, organized by Graduate Employees Union/Local 2110 UAW, featured representatives from other battles for union recognition on campus, including the University of Pennsylvania, Tufts, Brown, Yale and the Pratt Institute.

A strong show of support from other unions at Columbia greatly energized the crowd. Represented were TWU Local 241, UAW Local 259 and SEIU Locals 693 and 1199. "Today we are sending a strong message to Columbia that all the unions here support this unionization drive," UAW Local 2110 organizer Aloke Agarwala told Socialist Worker. "If we have to, we will all join a general strike on campus."

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New York City teachers against the war

NEW YORK--New York City Teachers Against the War held a forum April 5 to educate teachers, students and parents about the war at home.

Speakers addressed the crowd of 50 on subjects like military recruitment in schools, the destruction of civil liberties, the history of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) and the potential to build an opposition inside the UFT and pass an antiwar resolution. Teachers in the audience also shared stories of how they had been able to question the war in their classrooms and organize their coworkers through buttons, petitions and antiwar rallies.

With their contract expiring in May, teachers will be rallying May 3 in Albany to demand no cuts to public education. Teachers Against the War plan to march as a contingent.

To get involved, e-mail [email protected]

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