Tell Bloomberg to tax the rich
NEW YORK--Between 300 to 400 people rallied at City Hall on February 24 to demand that billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg get his priorities straight.
The call to action was jointly initiated by five unions--locals in the AFSCME public-sector federation District Council 37 as well as Service Employees International Union Local 758--but was supported by far many more unions and organizations than could fit on a flier.
The official demands of the rally called on Bloomberg to keep the millionaire's tax, stop the layoffs and service cuts, and end the scandal-plagued CityTime payroll project. The mayor has defended CityTime despite the fact that several of its consultants are being prosecuted for embezzling $80 million in city tax dollars.
Members of the United Federation of Teachers were present, alongside members of the private-sector hotel and trades council, and members of the New Jersey-based International Longshoremen's Association crossed the Hudson River to show their anger at government officials and support for the reemergence of militant unionism.
A union member from New Jersey of Yemeni descent explained the importance of recognizing the courageous resistance in the Middle East, North Africa and Wisconsin, as strong indicators that organizing rallies and making stronger demands for everyone's rights "is the only way to expect a chance our futures could improve."
That was the general sentiment shared by the crowd that gathered that afternoon. Chants like "Cuomo, Walker--Same struggle, same fight!" and "Ain't no power like the power of the people!" led the crowd on the march around City Hall.
At one point, before returning to the rallying spot, in a show of solidarity, protesters quickly passed the word along like a game of "telephone" to transform the march into one that resembled a single file formation on the street. The single-row formation of protesters ultimately spread the protesters out enough to completely line the entire perimeter of City Hall.
With this display of solidarity, it was difficult to find anyone who didn't understand the connection to be made with the revolts in the Middle East, and their own struggles to stay afloat and survive here.
"We've got to keep this up, spread the word and be open about protesting," said Victor, a student at the Borough of Manhattan Community College. "If Wisconsin loses, or we stop protesting and walk away with our tails between our legs, we're done for, kiss your last few rights away...and that's why I want a revolution here."
With apprehension for our futures, and frustrations running high, the daily reports of inspiration coming in--from the struggle in Wisconsin to revolts in Libya and beyond--there's a strong sense that New Yorkers want to be the next state to continue the fight for workers' rights.