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Monday, October 29, 2007

We Can Build a Bigger, Stronger Party

(A printable PDF version of this speech can be downloaded here.)

Communist Party USA
East Coast Regional Party & Press Building Conference
New York City • October 13, 2007

Keynote Address:
“We Can Build a Bigger, Stronger Party”

By Libero Della Piana, New York State Chairperson

We have come together to help answer the question of how to building a bigger, stronger Communist Party. Today in Chicago and next week in Oakland, California, other Party members from the Midwest and West will be gathering with the same purpose. Meeting this challenge has become the mission of the entire Party.

The Party-Building Discussion

For the Past year we have been grappling with this challenge. First we had a series of discussion in the National Board and National Committee of the Party, followed by a Party-wide discussion of the role, nature and work of the Communist Party USA. In March, the national Committee adopted a 2007 Party-Building Plan of Work with a series of initiatives, objectives and proposals to recruit members, develop leaders, spread our influence, increase the readership of the People’s Weekly World newspaper and Political Affairs magazine, help build the Young Communist League and strengthen our organization in every way.

These activities in the past year were not only aimed at recruiting members, raising money and spreading the paper, but also at changing the culture of the Party itself, of making party-building a key activity and concern in everything we do. Our goal has been to put Party building back on the agenda.

And it is definitely on our agenda today. Our goal here today in this meeting is to 1) further win the grassroots membership of the Party to the task of building the Party; 2) to gather and share the experiences of Party Building by members, Clubs and Districts around the region; and 3) to help develop solutions to concrete barriers to building the Party at all levels.

We will have discussion following my presentation, other presentations by leaders of the Party and the YCL, and we will have plenty of exchange in small groups, where everyone here will have time and space to share your experiences and ideas. And of course, this meeting is not the end of our work. No, this is just the beginning. Each of us has to leave this meeting committed to doing our individual part in building the Party, press and the YCL. We also have to spread the word. To help convince everyone else in the Party that we can build a stronger, bigger Communist Party, in fact that we must.

The Political Context

Building the party never happens in a vacuum. We have always said that the Party must be built in the broader political and social context in which we live. The level and tempo of the class struggle and class conscious of the masses of people lays the basis for the growth of the Party. The Party can certainly recruit and build its presence in almost any political context. But how we build the Party, how we circulate and expand the Part press is defined by the political moment.

For the last 25-plus years, the far-right section of the U.S. ruling class has dominated political life from the Washington to the State House to Main Street. The rightwing has had the initiative and the momentum. For the most part the working class and the broad democratic forces have been waging defensive struggles—fending off the attacks from the right, cuts in government funding and the shifting of the political debate to the right. Since that time, our Party’s strategic objective has been to build unity to defeat the right in order to build the strength of the working class and its allies and to open the way for higher stages of struggle: the anti-monopoly struggle and eventually socialism.

That strategic outlook is developed and explained in our Party Program, titled “The Road to Socialism USA: Unity for Peace, Democracy, Jobs & Socialism.” It states that,
“the only strategy capable of defeating the ultra-right is the widest possible unity of all the class and social forces whose interests run counter to those of the most reactionary section of the transnationals. Such an all-inclusive coalition would need to be led by labor and the working class in close alliance with the nationally and racially oppressed, women, and youth.”
All aspects of political and mass struggle as well as the building of the Party must be guided by the framework of building the all-people’s coalition to defeat the right. (By the way in preparing these remarks, I reread large parts of our Party’s Program. I encourage everyone to do so. It represents a huge amount of collective work and I think is very helpful for thinking through current developments. If your clubs haven’t yet read and discussed it, it would be a good project.)

For the next year or so the 2008 Presidential elections is the main battleground that defines the class and democratic struggles in this country. All the key people’s organizations, mass movements and social forces will be engaged in he fight to drive the rightwing from the White House and to solidify the gains of the 2006 elections in Congress and at the State level.

Our Party-building efforts in the next year must be rooted in our deep engagement in the election struggles. This is not only because the election is so important and will effect all other terrains of struggle, but also because there is no other way for the Party to grow in the next period. If we are not connected to the millions of working people who will be caught up in the election year campaigns and projects, how can we grow? People and masses in motion at the grassroots level are most likely to develop higher levels of political consciousness and analysis. They are our most likely potential recruits.

The ongoing war and occupation in Iraq will be with us for the foreseeable future, and the struggle against the war will continue to motivate a massive movement for peace that is organized at the grassroots, and increasingly involving the labor movement, religious organizations and the anti-war majority in the country. The party has become more engaged in the peace work at all levels. Many clubs are fully mobilizing for the October 27 Peace demonstrations called by United for Peace & Justice, just two weeks away. Our participation and leadership has been totally welcome. Still, our involvement is still uneven. Not only is the presence of communists in the peace movement and the broader movement for peace important to their tactical and political direction, but the peace struggle is an important field for building the Party in every way.

Of course we are not engaging in the elections or the peace struggle or any of the other struggle in which we are active just to build the party. On the contrary, we are engaging in the class and democratic struggles because that is where large sections of the working class, the labor movement, and other mass people’s organizations are focused. It is because that is where the class struggle leads us. We are getting involved in the 2008 election to help build and develop the various mass movements. The party’s growth and development is dialectically linked to the growth and development of the movements and struggles. It is not a direct equation where a bigger movement equals a bigger Party, but the development of the Party helps strengthen the movements and the stronger for advanced movements cannot do anything else but lay the basis for building the Party. It is now up to us to meet the opportunity.

Of course another context for the Party’s efforts to grow is the economic and social crisis. Perhaps the best recruiter we have is capitalism itself, which continually pushes working people into poverty, despair and fear. It is capitalism that inherently creates the class struggle, where workers clash with the capitalists every day. As Marx and Engels wrote 150 years ago, that capitalism creates its own “grave-diggers” that is the working class itself. But workers cannot get rid of capitalism on their own. A working-class Party is needed to organize the struggle for socialism.

The Role and Tasks of the Communist Party

That’s where we come in: the Communist Party USA. But, what is the Communist Party? What is our role? What is our objective? What makes us different from other political groups? Why do we say we are a necessary force for real change in this country? National Chairman Sam Webb opened up the discussion on the theory of the Party in his booklet “the Role, Nature and Work of the Communist Party.”

According to our Party Program, “To fulfill this role, the Communist Party needs the following characteristics, first in outlook, leading to actual leadership status among the working class and all working people. The Communist Party must be:
  1. a party of the working class…,
  2. a party of socialism,
  3. based on Marxism-Leninism,
  4. engaged in proletarian internationalism, and
  5. organized on the principle of democratic centralism."
Hopefully all of you have debated and discussed these issues earlier this year. But it is essential that we all have a thorough understanding of the theory of the party. We will not be fully committed to building the party if we don’t know why the Party must grow.

The Party is not just a special organization, a group with a rich history and wonderful members such as everyone here in the room. No, the Communist party is also a necessary organization, without which the working class would be weaker. Without which the successful struggle for socialism would be impossible. Lenin showed that the working class cannot If there was no Communist Party, one would have to develop a Communist Party.

Sam Webb also reminded us that, “it is also the role of the communists to build the Party and its Press.” In other words, the Communist Party has to be a lot bigger if we are going to play our special role, to lead the working class to fulfill its role as a revolutionary class doing away with capitalism and together with a broad section of other social forces building socialism, a democratic system where the needs of the people come first. We are not really a communist Party unless we grow and build and develop the size and capacity to really lead, to be a Party of the whole working class. We have to grow the Party everywhere where working people live and struggle. We need to have Party Clubs in large cities and small, in urban and rural communities, in every state, in every community.

The Clubs, Building Blocks of the Party

The Clubs are the building blocks of the Party. They are the grassroots organization of the party where members come together to engage in discussion and action. In one sense, the party is nothing more than the sum of all its members organized in Clubs. The District Leaderships, National leaderships and all the hardworking staff we have cannot replace the Party’s members and their local activity.

Yet, our Party Clubs are very uneven in their condition, functioning and organizational health. We have many clubs that meet regularly, but others that do not. We have Clubs that are involved in local struggles and mass issues, others are isolated and focused on internal issues. We have Clubs that have regular educational activities, study of Marxist basics and current issues, others rarely or never

Clubs that are dysfunctional need immediate attention. We need to consider moving members to different clubs, merging or shifting clubs, bringing in new leadership. Problems need to discussed and addressed directly. Many districts have one or more “problem clubs’ that do not grow, do not distribute the paper effectively, raise money or engage in mass struggles. We have to overcome these problems, reorganizing club were necessary. Sometimes a shift in a club’s composition can have a positive impact on everyone’s functioning.

We need to make every club of the party a welcoming environment for new members, a place where members have a rich political experience, and feel the club adds to their work. We have to change club meeting from being a chore or a distraction from mass work to being a dynamic part of member’s political activity. If we don’t make the club meetings interesting, exciting, relevant and useful then members will stop coming and Party will become just another commitment in a list of responsibilities for busy activists.

Club Concentration

Our concept of Party organization is dependent on clubs being the main structures of the party. But Clubs are not just “chapters” of the party. A Party Club has to be linked to its local area, to it working class, its key organizations and issues. Each club therefore, while working within the national framework of party policy, campaigns and initiatives, is involved in local work based on the discussion and decisions of the club’s members.

Clubs that are dynamically engaged in these local struggles can bring in the national collective experience and analysis of the whole, bring in our Marxist analysis and our strategy, bring in what we used to call the “communist plus.”

But in order to really do this in a sustainable and achievable way, we have to have club concentration. Club concentration is a focus on a particular geographic area or workplace. When club’s concentration area is too large it’s work is less effective and less relevant to its members. In many places in the Party, clubs have abandoned or drifted away from the practice of club concentration with negative results. We need to struggle for every club to develop a concentration area in which to focus its paper distribution, mass work and Party presence. This is not to the exclusion of other work, but to focus and maximize the work of clubs with limited resources, human and financial.

Larger more established clubs should seek in consultation with the District leadership. Of course we never want to rush to set up a new club or to divide members in a successful club, but a large citywide club too often becomes a small citywide club. The tendency is then to expand the scope of the club eve further to bring in members from farther afield making it less sustainable. We have clubs in many areas where members have to travel long distances to attend meetings and club’s work is irrelevant to their work and lives. We should see these situations as

The same is true of “trade unionist” clubs. These clubs cannot adequately address the various issues in all the industries represented by its membership. And their existence perpetuates the notion that the club is a single-issue group only focusing on trade union issues or that other clubs do not deal with trade union issues nor have trade union members. Trade unionist clubs should in most cases be seen as transitional on the road to industry clubs and eventually, when we are a lot bigger, to shop and workplace clubs, where the communists in a single workplace can gather and address the extremely local developments where the work. The same is true of citywide clubs. We should have an outlook towards making these into neighborhood or in the distant future, into block clubs of the organization.

Club concentration is a principle and should be mechanically applied, but we need to better study concentration policy and makes plans for implementing it in our work. I believe it is an essential part of Party-building.

Club Leadership

The biggest factor in the success of Party Clubs is club leadership. We need more dedicated club chairs, club treasurers and other club leaders. Clubs cannot function properly without leaders to ensure regular and business-like meetings, to give political guidance and maintain contact with members between meetings.

Being a club chair is difficult work and a big commitment. And we need many more of them. Many clubs have temporary or reluctant chairs who are unable or unwilling to really lead the club. We also need club chairs to think about how they can improve their work, to think about how to help the club grow.

Districts must develop trainings, discussion and other mechanisms to support and nurture club chairs and other club leaders. For example, in New York, we are developing a training session for club treasurers and several districts are preparing for club leadership trainings in the New Year that will include political discussion as hands-on training in the skills and responsibilities of club work.


Increasing the number of our members is the first thing many of us think of when it comes to building the party. That’s understandable. Numerically increasing the Party is the key to all other aspects of Party Building. Without more members and leaders, we cannot expand our influence, significantly increase the circulation of our paper or increase our public presence. How many times have you wished in your club that there was another member or two to help with all the important work to be done?

But new members don’t just make the Party bigger. New members force the Party to change in important ways. A new member or two in a Club can change the dynamics of a conversation and open up new opportunities. Of course, new members alone won’t change a club, but a club that is open to growth and consciously protective of a new member’s development will change in response to new blood, doing what is necessary to retain the members and encourage others to join.

Building the Party Among the Core Forces

The Party program identifies the social groups that are the most decisive in making broad social change in the U.S. These groups—the working class, women, the racially and nationally oppressed and youth—are together called the core forces. The core forces overlap and intersect, but together make up the most important sectors of society, leading other social groups and playing a progressive role in general. Because of their experience of exploitation and oppression, the core forces engage in class and democratic struggles every day under capitalism. They are compelled to fight for change.

The unity of these social groups and the unity between them is a key ingredient in making any significant social change in this country. We cannot defeat the ultra-right or move onto higher stages of struggle including winning socialism without these groups. It follows that the Communist Party must seek to build its organization among the multiracial multinational multilingual working class. But we must also recruit among women of all classes, races and backgrounds. And we must recruit African Americans, Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans and other Latinos, Asian Americans, Arab American, immigrants and all racially oppressed people.

And doesn’t it make sense that they would be drawn to the Party? Aren’t they the people who are searching for change? Searching for a better life and a solution to the problems they face day in and day out? It is up to us to help provide the answers and the organization that can fulfill their desire for a better world.

Industrial concentration is a key part of the effort to build the party in the working class. From its earliest days, our Party has focused its work on the working class in particular its organized sector: the labor movement. But we have also had a particular focus on workers in heavy industries that have a decisive impact on the economy and the working-class as a whole. Recently we reaffirmed our industrial concentration policy, making the Steel, Automotive, and Transportation industries key to our national work. Many Districts also have their own industrial concentrations based on the local conditions in their State. Here in New York for instance we have a concentration on the Public Transportation sector of the broader Transport Industry. I think everyone knows the leading role played by New York City transit workers who went on strike a few years back.

We have to find ways to further build the Party among workers and all working people. Many clubs have neighborhood distribution routes of the People’s Weekly World; some have regular distributions at Central Labor Councils and key union delegate meetings.

Many plant gate distribution of the paper have fallen away because of plant closures and the lack of capacity in the clubs. We need to find new ways to reach the working class, particular those in key industries according to our industrial concentration policy.

This summer, the Party held a conference eon African American Equality in St. Louis where we discussed the particular importance of the African American community. African Americans have always played a revolutionary role in this country from the struggle for the country’s independence, the Civil War, the Black Freedom Struggle of the Civil Rights era, and up to the present day. We also discussed the extreme crisis in the Black community due to racism, super exploitation and the genocidal policies of the ultra-right. We agreed at that conference for every District and Club to discuss African American equality, and make concrete plans for reaching out to the Black community and having an approach toward recruiting African Americans.

Building the Party among the core forces should be a key theme in today’s discussions and the ongoing discussion in the clubs and districts going forward.

Membership Retention

Recruiting new members is just the beginning. It is not enough to attract new recruits, but to keep them, develop them and win them over fully to the party and its program. People will join the Party for many different reasons: as a form of protest to the system, because of a relationship with a Party member, because of our Party’s unique history, because of a nostalgic vie of the Soviet Union, etc. And many new recruits will have preconceptions about the party and its politics.

Whatever the reason they joined, most people stay in the Party because they become convinced of is role and necessity. We need to develop communists, committed Marxists who are convinced not only of the necessity of socialist revolution, but also of our strategic policy and mass approach.

Club meetings are the main point of entry for new recruits. District staff (where it exists) cannot substitute for the work of the clubs or their relationship and nurturing off new members. Clubs must be efficiently run, friendly environments that new members will be excited about attending. Involving new members in the work of the club, the distribution of the paper, mass work, etc. is important as well, but we should take care not to pour too much responsibility on them or load them up with drudgery. Sometimes there is an attitude of relief that there is a new member to take all the work off the hands of the veteran members. We should avoid this practice, as it is a recipe for someone dropping away.

Regular personal contact between club leaders and new members between club meetings is extremely important. Developing personal relationships and rapport is also important to building trust and an environment conducive to retaining members. Social events, food, good and welfare and other things that put a human face on the party are important as well.

Marxist Education

Marxist education is another key to retaining new members and developing Party leaders. Many people are drawn to the Party because of our vision and analysis. They are frustrated by the day-in-day-out struggle without hope for real victories, without answers to their tough questions. Therefore we absolutely must prepare new members with Marxist education and study of current events.

New members classes at the District and even club level are important, as well as regular club educational and where appropriate reading groups, film series, etc. Every club should have ample Party literature as well as books and pamphlets of the Marxist Classics for collective study and to provide to new members.

Marxist education is also a recruitment tool. Many rank-and-file workers, activists, students and more have come into the Party through our schools and trainings. Workers Schools, public forums, and reading groups are all ways to bring activists closer and possibly recruit them.

Education is often the first thing to fall off a club’s agenda. We have to turn that around if we want to effectively recruit, retain and develop new members.

Barriers to Growth

There are many barriers and challenges to the growth of the party. Identifying them is essential to dismantling or overcoming them. This is not an exhaustive list and every club and district will have its own particular strengths, weaknesses and challenges. But the following barriers to growth seem common enough throughout the party and should be examined.

Fear. There are many fears (both real and imagined) that become barriers to recruitment public presence, and fundraising. There is fear of change, fear of the challenge, fear of failure, and I also think fear of success. The others may be self-explanatory, so let me say that I think some of us are afraid of succeeding, afraid of what a bigger, stronger more public Communist Party will demand of them. We have to find out ways to dispel and address these fears.

Other priorities. For too many members, the Party and its work comes far down the list. When we ask for volunteers to take up the organizational work of the Party—recruitment, fundraising, and building the paper—too often people have “more important” things to do. Clubs need to discuss how to get every member to put the Party higher on the list.

Overloaded plates. Comrades have too many things on their plates. So do the Clubs. Some members are involved with numerous organizations, movements and events and don’t focus their activities to benefit the movements or the Party. Clubs also tend to run from one issue event to the next, putting out fires. Every club should discuss how to focus their work and cut things from their agenda. They should help members do the same.

Being stuck in a rut. Some of our clubs run on automatic. Or don’t run at all. Some members are quite comfortable with small clubs composed of people they have known for years. The functioning of clubs can become too familiar and unfavorable to bringing in and retaining new members. We should all think about how to get such clubs out of the rut, to stir things up and bring some fresh ideas, initiatives and members into the clubs.

Disconnected. This is not so much a problem anymore. Most of our clubs are connected and deeply involved with the mass labor and people’s struggles in their area. But there are still a few clubs and more than a few members that are turned inward. Are not involved with mass movements, don’t get involved in the fightback struggles all around them. This is a deadly problem that will significantly limit the ability of the Party to grow.

Party-building not a priority. The last barrier to growth is perhaps the biggest barrier. We don’t grow, because we don’t think about and make plans to grow. In other words, Party-building itself is not a priority in many clubs and among many members. This is our biggest challenge, to get every club and more and more members to consciously think about the challenges and tasks of Party-building, to make concrete plans and then to carry them out.

Of course, there are no easy solutions to these issues. Many of these challenges will be with us for a long time. Today’s discussion is the beginning of addressing them. The discussion that follows in the Districts and Clubs is the key to working through specific barriers to growth.

Fundraising is an Essential Aspect of Party-Building

In the past two years we have begun to put our Party’s finances on better footing. We have had a thorough look at our spending and fundraising and tried to make the financial health of the Party part of the discussion throughout the Party.

We have also begun to identify raising funds for the Party as an essential Party-building activity. It makes sense. Many of the indispensable things we do—produce materials and publications, publish a weekly newspaper, maintain staff people to organize the work of the Party, travel the country for important meetings like this one—all of it costs money. There is no way to build a stronger, bigger Party without raising more money.

Recognizing this fact, we developed a new system to make it easier for members and supporters to give money to the Party and its projects. We also overhauled the dues policy to make dues a more significant contribution.

The new sustainer program allows contributors to give a regular amount every month to fulfill their commitment to the National Party, the Party Press and the District Organizations. The potential is huge and we have to encourage every member to participate at whatever level they can.

All of this was done with a recognition that the ongoing economic crisis in this country I having a huge and negative impact on working people and their livelihoods. We always have to ensure that our essential fundraising does not keep recruits, contacts and friends away from us. In fact, spreading he financial responsibility for the party should bring those contacts closer to us.

Members should give what they can. Having said that, many of us can contribute more to the party and the press, and we believe that members and supporters will give more in relation to their belief that the party is a necessary part of the political upsurge and for the struggle to change this system altogether.

Like Party-building generally, raising funds for the Party is every member’s responsibility. We have to ask ourselves, “Have we contributed significantly to the Party?”, “Have we asked others to make contributions, large or small?”, “What can we do to help ensure the financial health of the party for today and the future?”

The Party Press

The People’s Weekly World and Political Affairs are two key parts of the party’s press. The PWW is a weekly newspaper, which brings the views and politics of the Communist party to thousands of people and continually exposes the crimes of the system and the struggles of the people. PA, the bimonthly magazine engages in questions of theory, ideology, politics and culture.

The PWW in particular is a key tool in our tool belts. It is the weekly, regular voice of the party. In fact, it is the paper of the whole movement, reflecting the various struggles and also influencing them. Building the paper’s readership, circulation, subscription base, etc. is a central aspect of Party building. Increasing the use of small paper bundles by Clubs and members is a great way to make sure the paper gets into someone’s hand. Of course, the paper is only a tool; it is up to use to do the work. The paper is a way to open a discussion. To make a new contact, to

As less recognized aspect of our press are the various webpages and electronic media we have developed in recent years. These new information technologies are reaching millions of people and have the potential to bring the reach of the Party’s influence far wider than print can. Here in New York District, we have developed a weekly electronic bulletin to maintain contact with our members and friends and a webpage “blog” where we comment on, report on, and analyze political developments here in New York State. These and other initiatives in electronic media are essential in the 21st Century if we are going to truly be the “Party of the future,” as Engels put it.

To respond to this emerging area of our work, the National board has established a committee to develop proposals for evolving our publications in order to 1) expand and develop our internet and new media work; 2) expand the readership of the Party press and its influence; 3) and bring our spending on publications in line with our financial abilities. I want to reassure people that we are not doing away with the printed PWW. But we are looking at ways to affect mandatory savings while maintaining our excellent publications.

The committee will be bringing proposals to the National Board in the next week and to the National Committee in November.

The Young Communist League—the Future of the Party

When we discuss an plan the building of the Communist party, we cannot forget the Young Communist League. The YCL and the Party share a special relationship, each supporting and building the other and the Party nurturing and guiding the development of the League and its young members. The YCL looks to the Party for political direction and the party looks to the YCL for its future members and leaders.

So it is obvious that building the YCL is another essential task of the Party if it is to ensure its future.

The Young Communist League is organizationally independent form the Party. It has its own structures, leaders and decision-making. In that sense the Party cannot directly build the League. But the Party must wherever possible, in small ways and large, help the YCL grow organizationally, politically, etc. When there is a Party club and no local YCL, the Party should help recruit and attract YCL members and in coordination with the National YCL help build YCL clubs. Where the YCL and Party coexist, there should be close relations, communication and coordination between the Party and the League, to ensure the potential for growth.

Party Clubs and District should have ample YCL materials and stay attuned to YCL campaigns and activities. While the YCL is an organization of youth, we should never forget that in the words of Engels, we are the Party of the youth.” The Party has to relate to youth issues and young people themselves of course in close cooperation with the Young Communist League. The 2008 elections is a great opportunity for YCL and Party to work together locally and plans are in motion nationally.

Many YCL leaders are also members of the Party. As such, their Party work should be to build the YCL and to develop new leaders to eventually take their place. Recruitment of YCL members into the Party and the passage of YCLers out of YCL work into the Party should be done very carefully and with full coordination and agreement of the YCL.

We will be hearing more later about the building of the Young Communist League from Adam Tenney, the National Education Coordinator of the YCL.


Today is just the beginning. Let’s have rich and fruitful discussion in the workshops and panels. Let’s tackle some of the challenges we face in our clubs and Districts. And then let’s carry the message forward, bring our enthusiasm and commitment back to our Party clubs where we put these lessons and ideas into action.

Remember, the Party has to be built in the context of the struggle. We can only build the party and increase the reach of our press while engaged in the mass struggle of the all-people’s coalition striving to defeat the ultra-right.

Remember that building the party requires a knowledge of the Marxist theory of the Party which males it clear that the communist party is not just important, but necessary for major social changes and to lead the working class in its historic mission to replace capitalism with socialism.

And remember that no one else will build the Party but you—and me. We can’t expect someone else to do it. So let’s take concrete steps to build a stronger, bigger communist party today.

A printable PDF version of this speech can be downloaded here.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

NY Cabbies Strike Over GPS Tracking Scheme

By Libero Della Piana
NEW YORK — New York cabbies held a successful 24-hour strike here Oct. 22 in protest of the new global positioning system devices being mandated by the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC). The strike, which comes just six weeks after a previous 48-hour strike on the same issue, was called by the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, a member of the New York City Central Labor Council.

Subways were clogged during the morning commute and passengers at airport taxi lines stretched along the curb, as few cabs broke ranks with the strike. Mayor Michael Bloomberg initiated a contingency plan that included zone fares and multiple fares per taxi, amounting to a big bribe to scabbing cab drivers.

A noon rally outside of the lower Manhattan offices of the TLC drew over 1,000 cab drivers and their allies. Ed Ott, executive director of the Central Labor Council, spoke to the crowd, saying, “You represent a new era of the labor movement in this city. Your fight is our fight.”

Other speakers included Randi Weingarten, president of the United Federation of Teachers, City Councilmember Robert Jackson, Rabbi Michael Feinberg of the Greater New York Labor-Religion Coalition, representatives of Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union and the Professional Staff Congress at the City University of New York.

Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the taxi workers alliance, claimed the strike as a victory, stating that 75 percent of the 44,000 city cab drivers stayed off the road. “We have to believe in our unity, because in the long run, we will win,” she said.

Unity among the racially and nationally diverse taxi workforce is running high, according to union organizers. The mayor’s office and the TLC have tried sowing disunity through public statements, bribes and backing a puppet union led by Republican Party activist and multimillionaire Fernando Mateo.

Cabbie Billy Acquaire rallied the crowd by reminding drivers of the corruption and cronyism behind the GPS deal. “Everybody knows about the ‘GPS insider’s club,’” said Acquaire. “Ron Sherman, president of the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade, is also a GPS vendor.” Drivers in the crowd went wild when Acquaire challenged TLC Chairman Matthew Daus to come down from his office to explain the insider contract.

The Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade is the association of the large taxi garages that dominate the industry. Sherman also owns Midtown Garage. Sherman’s company Creative Mobile Technologies received the largest of the five contracts to put GPS into cabs. A number of TLC officials bagged jobs with Creative Mobile Technologies after the contracts were secured, including Jed Applebaum, who previously was assistant commissioner of safety and emissions.

Not only was the process corrupt, but cabdrivers also feel that the GPS equals a cut in pay for drivers and invades their privacy. A 5 percent service charge is deducted from every transaction, and drivers cannot earn fares when the machine doesn’t work.

Drivers plan to continue their fight through continued public pressure and a federal lawsuit, and by seeking solidarity from labor allies and passengers.

This article originally appeared in the People's Weekly World newspaper.

Final Preparations for Oct 27 Peace March in NYC

After months of preparation, the October 27 regional demonstrations called by United for Peace & Justice are just days away.

The New York State Communist Party has been actively involved at all levels. Almost every club has been involved in local mobilization and preparations. We have been working closely with our coalition partners and new friends. Party members have helped garner some of the large number of labor endorsements of the event as well as the mobilization of working-class organizations, churches, etc.

Now we are in the home stretch and we should do what we can in the next few days to help make the march and demonstration a big success, and build the Party and our press while we are at it.

Here are some things you and your club members and allies can do to help:
1) March with the Communist Party. Come join the Communist Party contingent in the march. We know many of you will be marching with your local unions or peace organizations, but we need a sizable and diverse group to march with our banner together with the New Jersey Communist Party.

Our contingent will be gathering on 22nd St between Broadway and Park Ave. at 12:00 Noon. Look for the red dove peace signs and the Party banner.

2) Help distribute the People’s Weekly World. We want to get out many copies of the PWW to marchers on Saturday and we need your help to do it. You can come to the paper drop sites on Saturday morning or bring papers to the feeder marches. Be sure and call Bill Davis at our office (212-924-0550) right away and let us know if you can help with the paper.

3) Make reminder calls to friends and family between now and Saturday. Remind everyone of the demonstration and the importance of having a big presence that represents the 70% of the public that is against the ongoing occupation of Iraq. You can also do some last minute leafleting at subway stops or help distribute posters. Send emails to friends and family too!

4) Help staff the Communist Party table at the Peace Fair. If you or someone in your club cannot walk the length of the march Saturday, consider helping us staff the Party’s table at the Peace Fair held in Foley Square. We need 2 or 3 volunteers. The table will be in operation from 1:00-5:30pm.
Saturday will be a very exciting event and it couldn’t be timelier. The urgency of ending the war in Iraq grows every day. The negative impact of the war on Iraqi civilians, U.S. soldiers and their families, and U.S cities is climbing daily. It is time for us to show the will of the majority.

Remember to check for last minute updates and information or to download the latest leaflet.

World Day for Audiovisual Heritage: NYU Unveils “Lost” Films Of The Communist Party USA

Below is a press release from New York University about an event they are hosting this weekend. The Tamiment Library will be showing a number of extremely rare films from the collection of the Communist Party USA this Saturday as part of the World Day for Audiovisual Heritage. The films were donated to the library by the CPUSA as part of a larger gift in 2006. Go check out the event, but don't forget to join us for the United for Peace & Justice march and demonstration first!


New York City, October 18 — The United Nations’ Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has established October 27, 2007 as the first-annual World Day for Audiovisual Heritage. To commemorate this event, New York University’s Moving Image Archiving and Preservation Program and NYU Libraries are proud to present a showcase of rare 16 mm films from the Communist Party USA Collection.

The screening will be the first public glimpse into a landmark collection donated by the Communist Party USA to the University’s Tamiment Library & Wagner Labor Archives in 2006. The eight short films selected for this program will raise eyebrows and challenge stereotypes by offering fresh perspectives on everyday life in the Communist world.

What does it take to be a teenage Cosmonaut? How did camerawork convey meaning in propaganda films of South Vietnam? What music was popular on the far side of the Berlin Wall? What kind of future did the Communists foresee for an independent Angola?

Find the answers in


GOING UP THE LINE (South Vietnam, c. 1969);

ANGELA DAVIS REPORT (East Germany, 1972);






With this screening, NYU Libraries and the MIAP Program hope to raise local awareness about the significance of moving image collections to cultural history and collective memory. The program will also highlight challenges faced by today’s moving image archivists, from conserving obsolete formats and prolonging the life of decaying materials, to addressing the ethics of preservation for works historically underrepresented by governments and media conglomerates.

UNESCO World Day for Audiovisual Heritage is hosted by New York University on October 27, 2007 from 2:00 – 4:00 PM at the Languages and Literature Building, 19 University Place, Room 102. The event is free and open to the public. For additional information on the event, contact:

Sarah Ziebell
New York University

(212) 998-2692

About UNESCO — The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization was established as a specialized agency of the UN in 1945. UNESCO works to promote international collaboration through education, science and culture, and to promote universal respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms proclaimed in the UN Charter.

About NYU’s Moving Image Archiving And Preservation (MIAP)Program — MIAP is a two-year M.A. program that trains future professionals to manage preservation-level collections of film, video, new media, and other types of digital works, providing an international, comprehensive education in the theories, methods, and practices of moving image archiving and preservation.

Friday, October 19, 2007

NYC Taxi Workers Prepare for Another Strike, Monday Oct 22

The New York Taxi Workers Alliance (NYTWA) has called another one-day strike of cab drivers in the city for Monday, Oct 22. The strike will begin at 5:00 am and run for 24 hours. The strike follows a successful two-day strike last month to protest a new policy mandating Global Positioning Systems (GPS) in cabs by the city's Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC). Drivers say GPS will further cut into their meager earnings and invade their privacy.

The new strike makes additional demands including health and pension benefits for taxi workers, and union recognition and the resignation. Even the editorial board of the New York Daily News now supports the cabbies' demands.

NYTWA is a member of the New York City Central Labor Council.

Passengers and other supporters can help in many ways:
1) Call 311, New York City's information and service line and voice your support for cab drivers and opposition to the GPS system.

2) Introduce resolutions in support for the strike in your union, church, community group, etc.

3) Attend the rally in support of cab drivers at 12:00 noon, Mon, Oct 22 at TLC headquarters, 40 Rector Street, Manhattan. Bring signs like, "New Yorkers Stand with its cab Drivers" and "Passengers Against GPS Tracking."

4) And don't hail any taxis on Monday! Show your solidarity by not crossing the picket line.
For more information and to get leaflets, volunteer, etc., visit the website of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Ground Zero Fire, Deaths Spur Questions

By Bill Davis

NEW YORK — Six years after the 9/11 attack, the fog of profiteering, corruption and secrecy continues to whirl around the demolition and reconstruction of the World Trade Center site.

The latest deaths in the ongoing tragedy were those of two firefighters killed fighting a fire in the adjacent Deutsche Bank building in August this year. Even as those deaths were being memorialized, two more firefighters were injured in a construction accident at the site. The building was so badly contaminated and damaged on Sept. 11, 2001, that both decontamination and demolition are needed.

A cigarette butt left by construction workers ignited debris causing the deadly fire. Fire standpipes had apparently been cut or damaged by subcontractors so water didn’t flow to the fire hoses.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has tried to blame the deaths on three high-ranking fire department officers who were said to have failed to have the building inspected or develop a plan for fighting a fire at the site. Firefighters have said they were discouraged from doing proper fire safety inspections by the city and demolition contractors.

Another factor contributing to the tragedy may have been subcontracting the demolition “on the cheap” to the John Galt Corp., an entity made up of executives of Safeway Environmental, a company criticized by New York City investigators because of ties to organized crime. The John Galt Corp. also has ties to Bloomberg’s administration.

Another subcontractor, North American Site Developers, Inc., indicated that it withdrew from the project after its president got an anonymous telephone threat.

The New York Daily News reports that state officials knew all along that yet another company, Rapid Demolition, with a history of worksite fires, was actually working on the demolition under subcontract to Safeway Environmental.

John Galt Corp. has since been fired.

Although the fire released toxic contaminants into the air of lower Manhattan, Bloomberg and city officials quickly gave an all-clear on air safety.

On this Sept. 11, the federal Environmental Protection Agency ordered the Deutsche Bank building sealed and all demolition work halted pending a full investigation and a new plan for safe cleanup.

First responders involved in rescue and search efforts at the WTC site, as well as area residents, say they have ongoing concerns about asbestos and other toxic pollutants in the air. The fears have been made stronger by high rates of illness and death suffered by those working and living in the area, and by public officials’ secret planning for rebuilding the site. Many cite the dissemination of false information by former Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Bush administration officials in the aftermath of the 9/11 attack, claiming that the area was safe when in fact it was not.

Many say the main driving motive in this continuing drama has been the profits to be made from some of the world’s most valuable real estate. The scramble to get at least some part of the profits and the uncertainties of the real estate market, with the threat of a big downturn in the near future, has produced both an unseemly haste to move forward (running roughshod over sensibilities of victims’ families) and protracted struggles for control among city, state and federal agencies and developers (which have slowed down the rebuilding process considerably).

City officials have several times declared the search for victims’ body fragments complete in order to fast-forward demolition and rebuilding, only to be forced to retreat after further discoveries. Victims’ friends and relatives have had to press for a suitable monument to be included in the plans. Ceremonies to mark the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks were forced away from Ground Zero so that the events would not interfere with construction.

This article was first published by the People's Weekly World.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Principal's Arrest Highlights Problem of School Police

Yesterday's arrest of a New York City high school principal and his 17-year-old student is just the latest of incidents involving "school safety officers" in City schools. The school security officers are managed by the city's police department and not the Department of Education, and have a history of excessive force, arbitrariness, and focus on punitive measures instead of problem-solving.

The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) published a report on the behavior of the school safety officers and their many misdeeds, titled "Criminalizing the Classroom: The Overpolicing of New York City Schools." They also point to policy solutions such as returning school safety to the control of the Department of Ed, not the NYPD.

The firing of a popular mentor and counselor at the Community School for Social Justice in the Bronx in May 2007 also showed the vindictive attitude of the school cops. He was barred from the school after bringing observers from the NYCLU to witness the use of metal detectors in his school. Teachers and administrators who have stood up to or tried to protect students from abuse have been, arrested, beaten or even threatened.

It's time for comprehensive reform of New York City's education safety policies and practices, beginning with putting school safety back in the hands of educators.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Iraq Vets Lead Syracuse Peace March

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Peace activists held a historic march and demonstration Sept. 29 here. Nearly 3,000 people participated in the protest called by the Fort Drum chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) and hosted by the Syracuse Peace Council, Student Peace Action Network at Syracuse University and the 1199 health care workers union.

The demonstration drew peace activists from around the region, arriving by bus, car and train from Buffalo, Rochester, Albany and many smaller towns.

“We are in the heart and soul of America here,” said Steve Kramer, 1199 union executive vice president, to the assembled crowd. People from “midsize cities and towns have come together to say no more war.”

The antiwar movement is continuing to keep the pressure on the White House and Congress to draw this war to an end. The demonstration was part of building for the 11 regional demonstrations called by United for Peace and Justice for Oct. 27.

“The only thing we should leave in Iraq is money for reparations and rebuilding,” said Elliott Adams, president of Veterans for Peace and resident of Saratoga Springs. “Not only do we need to get out of Iraq, we need to stay out of Iran.”

He and a number of speakers along with signs in the crowd warned against Bush administration threats of aggression against Iran.

“There is a drumbeat coming out of Washington for a possible war with Iran,” said IVAW member and conscientious objector Mike Blake from Binghamton. “But we are not afraid. We are standing up. There will be no endless war.”

Active-duty soldiers who inspired and initiated the protest made the march’s character unique. Fort Drum, which is located an hour and a half north of here, has had more Iraq casualties than any other U.S. base, according to IVAW. Several active-duty soldiers and Iraq veterans marched in the veterans’ contingent that led the march through the streets, carrying the U.S. flag and VFP colors.

Carole Baum of the Syracuse Peace Council, a group with an 80-year history, explained to the World the size and diversity of the protest by saying it is all about supporting the resistance in the military. “We are the nearest large city to Fort Drum.” She hopes that the event will help solidify the collaboration among upstate peace groups, “creating a web of activism where before there were just dots.”

The protesters also made the connection between the war in Iraq and the crisis of U.S. cities and towns.

Tanika Jones of Syracuse Citizen Action spoke about the loss of jobs in the city and the decaying of social services like housing, education and health care. “With the massive amount of money being spent on the war in Iraq, imagine what we could be building right here in our community.” Jones also told the World, “I am from Syracuse and I have never seen anything like this demonstration. Ever.”

As one protester turned to see the march stretch back half a mile or more, he said, “Wow! Right here in Syracuse.”

Derrick Davey, whose son died in Iraq in 2005, summed it all up: “Supporting the troops means bringing them home. It’s that simple.”

This story originally appeared in the pages of the People's Weekly World newspaper:

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

James E. Jackson Jr. — an appreciation

Esther Cooper Jackson and James Jackson. PWW file photo.

"James E. Jackson Jr., a giant in the struggle for African American equality, world peace and socialism, passed away Sept. 1, just short of his 93rd birthday. He was one of the truly heroic figures of the African American freedom movement, the progressive movement generally, and the Communist Party USA. He was an activist, mass leader, theoretician, tactician, teacher, writer and humanist, beginning at age 16. He was devoted to Esther Cooper Jackson, his wife of 66 years, a major leader in her own right, and to his daughters Harriet and Kathryn and their families, as well as to his many friends and comrades..."

Visit the People's Weekly World for the full article:

Monday, September 17, 2007

David Cline 1947-2007

David Cline, former president of Veterans for Peace and co-founder of Vietnam Veterans Against the War passed away this weekend. He was a wonderful friend to many of us, a great leader and public figure in the peace movement.

He never hesitated to call me comrade and mean it sincerely. I remember working with Dave on the Vietnam Agent Orange Relief & Responsibility Campaign's tour of the U.S. just a few months ago, he always kept great spirits and humor despite his illness.

One of the most touching moments I have ever experienced is when Dave gave his Purple Heart medal to Nguyen Van Quy, a Vietnamese veteran and Agent Orange sufferer who came to the U.S. to testify in the lawsuit against the chemical companies responsible for the poisoning of Vietnamese and U.S. soldiers alike. Mr. Quy just passed away this July.

Dave always knew who his friends were, and who was the real enemy.

You will be missed, comrade.

For more information about the memorial services, making a donation in his honor, visit the Veterans for Peace Webpage.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Labor Mourns 9/11 Dead, Fights for Living

(Originally printed in the People's Weekly World newspaper.)

By Libero Della Piana

NEW YORK — The city’s labor movement gathered near Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan, Sept. 8, in a combined Sept. 11, 2001, commemoration, Labor Day tribute and call for federal legislation to ensure health care for those suffering from 9/11-related illnesses.

The rally stage stood just a few hundred feet from the World Trade Center site, with the black-shrouded Deutsche Bank building in the background. Just two weeks ago, two firefighters were killed and other workers were injured after responding to a fire in the building, which was being demolished floor-by-floor due to damage in the Sept. 11 attacks six years ago. The latest incident was a tragic reminder of the continuing dangers at the site and the ongoing problems of managing the cleanup and rebuilding of the area.

Two days before the rally, plans were revealed for the remaining buildings in the rebuilding of the WTC complex, with construction to begin in January. But concerns persist about the ongoing health risk in the area.

The New York City Central Labor Council called the rally, along with the New York State AFL-CIO and New York Building and Construction Trades Council, in place of the traditional annual Labor Day parade held in the city since 1882.

Labor Council President Gary LaBarbera, who is also president of Teamsters Local 282, reminded the crowd that “Labor Day is more than a parade; more than a barbecue; more than a picnic. Labor Day began as a rally,” and continues to signify the fight for just working conditions and economic rights.

A major theme this Labor Day was the struggle for health care for the thousands affected by the 9/11 attacks and the aftermath. Fires that burned for months at Ground Zero and the toxic dust that settled everywhere affected local residents, first responders and other workers in the area.

In addition, hundreds of volunteers, many of them union members — iron workers, operating engineers, construction workers, first responders and others — flocked to the site from around the country to help with the rescue and recovery operation in the hours, days and weeks following 9/11.

Most of those who worked on or around the massive pile of debris and ash did so without respirators, in part because Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Bush environmental chief Christine Todd Whitman gave an all-clear on the air quality in the area. Now thousands of workers and residents are suffering from ailments resulting from that exposure.

Dr. Robin Herbert of Mount Sinai Hospital, who directs the World Trade Center Medical Monitoring Program, told the rally about the ongoing health problems experienced by these workers. “Four out of 10 of those treated have one or more lung problems such as asthma,” she said. “One in 10 have back problems or other musculoskeletal problems.” The monitoring program, which includes several medical centers in the New York area, performed examinations on 9,500 World Trade Center responders between July 2002 and April 2004.

Also among the speakers, New York’s Sen. Hillary Clinton vowed not to forget those who “launched and carried out the greatest rescue mission in history.” She declared, “We are going to rescue the rescuers.”

Congress did not pass federal funding for treatment of WTC-related medical treatment and tracking until December 2005, more than four years after the tragedy.

Every speaker at the rally hailed the new 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, introduced three days after the rally. The bill would guarantee ongoing funding for the treatment of all those across the country suffering from 9/11-related ailments, and would provide compensation to those who lost their jobs due to such illnesses. The bill would also reopen the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund and make it available to those suffering from rescue and cleanup work at the WTC.

New York Democratic Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Jerrold Nadler and Republican Rep. Vito Fossella introduced the bill. Fossella, the only Republican in the city’s congressional delegation, portrays himself as a “fiscal conservative” and has voted against extending funding for Katrina relief. While he has been vocal in support of ongoing protection for WTC victims, Fossella is also a big supporter of Bush’s Iraq war policies.

Rally speakers linked the war and the lack of action to support the heroes of 9/11 at home. Christine Quinn, speaker of the New York City Council, pointed out that it would cost $256 million per year for the health needs of 9/11 victims. “That’s one day in Iraq,” she noted, referring to the cost of the ongoing U.S. occupation. “Why can’t we find one day for 9/11 victims?” she asked.

Other speakers, including Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), Ed Malloy, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, and New York State AFL-CIO President Dennis Hughes, noted that workers built this country, championed economic and social justice and have always made sacrifices for their neighbors and families.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Join us at the 2007 NYC Labor Day Demo: Saturday, September 8

Help us distribute copies of the People's Weekly World newspaper at New York City's Labor Day demonstration this Saturday, September 8. We will meet on the northwest corner of Church and Vessey Streets across from Ground Zero at 9:30am. You can also pick up copies to take to your union's contingent in the march.

At 10:00am, the New York City Central Labor Council, the New York State AFL-CIO and the NY Building and Construction Trades Council are sponsoring a rally adjacent to 7 World Trade Center.

According to the Central Labor Council, "This Labor Day, as we remember the contributions of working people, the heroes of 9/11, and those who so honorably protect our freedom and security here and abroad, we join together to support labor’s efforts to address the long-term health needs, ongoing medical monitoring, treatment and compensation for first responders and other workers suffering from the long-term effects of 9/11."

For more information and to download a flyer, visit:
New York City Central Labor Council

Starrett City and the Fight for Affordable Housing

Housing in New York City is certainly in crisis. Working people find it harder and harder to live because of the cost of living, in particular, skyrocketing rents. Even the bastions of affordable housing in the city, such as Stuyvesant Town/Cooper Village and Starrett City are threatened.

A recent article on developments with Starrett City from the People's Weekly World newspaper notes that,

"Elected officials agree that raising the Starrett units to market rate would further worsen the current affordable-housing crunch in New York City. Of the more than 1.5 million New Yorkers living in poverty, less than a third currently have access to housing deemed “affordable” by the New York City Housing Authority.

'In New York City, the most basic of needs — a place to live — has become too expensive for the middle class and those struggling to make it,' said Rep. Weiner. Legislation now being considered in Albany and Washington would protect present and future tenants in future sales of Mitchell-Lama housing.

Starrett City is just a symptom of what is happening all over New York City. East Side, West Side, all around the town, it’s the same story. Landlords, especially large corporations, are pushing tenants out either by outright purchase of buildings or by just whittling away at the governor/mayor-appointed rent guidelines board, which has just passed another 5.25 and 7.25 percent increase for one- and two-year leases on rent-stabilized apartments."
For more information on the struggle to defend affordable housing at Starrett City, visit the following websites:

Save Starrett City

Metropolitan Council on Housing

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Labor Day Means It's Time for the PWW Fund Drive

Labor Day is rolling around again signaling the end of summer and the beginning of the annual People's Weekly World Fund Drive.

This year's drive runs from Labor Day until Thanksgiving with a national goal of raising $200,000 to support the publishing of our favorite newspaper, the People's Weekly World (PWW).

Here in New York State, we have pledged to raise $40,000, and we need your help to do it. We thank the many of you that have already pledged or contributed but we have a long way to go yet.

If you don't already know, the PWW is a unique working-class publication with over 80 years of history covering the trade union movement, civil rights and student organizations and all of the struggles for peace, democracy, equality and socialism in this country and around the world.

The PWW doesn't receive any corporate gifts, foundation grants, and doesn't have any big advertisers. It produces an unparalleled and much celebrated alternative news publication every week only through the dedication and support of its readers.

Subscriptions and donations are the bread-and-butter of the PWW, and every year we take a few eeks to ask all of you to dig deep and put your money where your values are. If you believe in a better world, one where working people have power over their own lives, where the environment is protected from corporate greed, where equality and justice are more than just slogans, where our country is a force for peace and international friendship, then make a contribution to the People's Weekly World Today.

We have a new objective this year in New York, to raise $1000 from online sources. In the right column of our website, you will see a blue box showing our progress towards that goal. Your contribution of $10 or $20 will do a lot to help us get to the goal (Of course we won't turn down any contribution 5¢ or $5000!).

If you don't want to donate online, give us a call at the New York Friends of the People's Weekly World at 212-924-0550 x355 and we will find another way for you to give. You can also send a check or money order to NY Friends of the PWW, 235 W 23rd St, New York, NY 10011. Make checks out to Longview Publishing.

So this Labor Day, check out the special issue of the PWW in your neighborhood, workplace and visit the paper's website at You can also subscribe if you haven't already by clicking the "subscribe" button on the bottom-right of our webpage.

Have a great Labor Day celebration and thanks for your continued support!

Friday, August 24, 2007

City Taxi Drivers Prepared to Strike Sept 5-6

There are few better symbols of New York City than the yellow cab. But there may be no taxis on city streets September 5 and 6.

That is, drivers are prepared to strike if the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) continues to refuse to negotiate with taxi drivers about sweeping changes they are imposing on the city's 44,000 drivers. The TLC, backed by the Mayor, are mandating that all of the city's 13,000 yellow cabs be equipped with Global Positioning System (GPS) hardware.

The New York Taxi Workers Alliance, a union with 10,000 member-drivers, held a press conference yesterday declaring that cab drivers are prepared to strike for 48 beginning at 5:00am Sept. 5 unless the TLC agrees to negotiate a fare settlement to their concerns about the system. The Taxi Workers Alliance in February became a member of the New York City Central labor Council, representing 400 unions in the city.

The GPS system will track all taxi trips and fares. The taxi meter will not operate unless the GPS works, meaning drivers cannot work if the system is inoperative. Plus, taxis will be tracked whether they are working or not since the GPS beeps incessantly if it is not engaged while driving. The system will effectively allow the TLC to monitor taxi patterns and fares in order to adjust fares and fees, but not likely to support drivers.

New York taxi drivers work long hours under difficult working conditions, often being stiffed for fares, facing safety issues and paying high lease rates to the TLC, medallion owners and garages. High gas costs also dig into cab drivers' earnings. Few drivers actually own medallions and depend on leasing medallions or renting cars from garages at rates upward of $100 per day.

Bhairavi Desai, Executive Director of the Taxi Worker Alliance said, "We do not understand why the TLC is mandating an unnecessary luxury technology on cabs." Costs for installing the GPS will be passed on to drivers, and 5% of every fare will go to the taxi garages as a processing fee. Not surprisingly, the contract to provide the GPS units to the city was awarded to Ron Sherman, head of the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade, the garage owners' association.

Drivers are concerned about privacy intrusion from the GPS system, as well as the financial impact. One driver at the press conference held a sign reading, "GPS tracks passengers too!" Plus, the GPS cannot actually be used the way many people use GPS in their own cars. There is no navigation feature that would make the GPS useful for lost drivers or for dispatching cabs.

"We have fundamental principal issues with GPS tracking," said Desai. "With the credit card, we have issues with how it is being implemented." Credit card payment and the video monitors do not require GPS to operate. Some taxis currently utilize credit card payments without GPS tracking.

Taxi workers are asking passengers to support them. They hope to avoid a strike by reaching a resolution with the TLC. One driver rallying at the press conference asked for passengers to "talk to the city, talk to the mayor, call the TLC and ask them to negotiate a resolution to this issue."

This would be the first strike by taxi drivers since their 24-hour work stoppage in 1998.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Delivering Justice in New York City

Saigon Grill workers explain their situation in front of restaurant. PWW photo by Ken BeSaw.

Immigrant labor makes New York City run. If you doubt it, order some food for delivery. All over the city (and increasingly around the country) immigrants are the backbone of the food service industry, working as chefs, line cooks, dish washers, bussers, and, of course, delivery workers.
In New York City those restaurant delivery workers often face low wages, unfair rules, and unsafe conditions. The dramatic case of the delivery staff at the Saigon Grill is case in point. Delivery workers there were locked out of their jobs months ago when they brought legal action against the restaurant's owner for illegally low wages and working conditions. Workers were being paid less than $2 and hour and being stiffed out of overtime pay in violation of State Labor Laws.

Organizations like Chinese Staff and Workers Association and the Asian American Legal Defense & Education Fund have rallied around the Saigon Grill workers and supported their nearly daily pickets of the restaurant. In May, 200 students disrupted meal service at the Restaurant's downtown restaurant in support of the workers. The boycott has recieved support from local elected officials such as Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, State Senator Tom Duane, and City Councilmember Gale Brewer.

The boycott of the Saigon Grill is just the beginning. Legal action is being taken against a number of other city restaurants with deplorable policies towards restaurant workers.

If you are interested in joining the picket, check out the schedule.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Moe Fishman 1915-2007

Moe Fishman, passed away August 6. He was 92. He has been a stalwart activist for peace and justice in New York for decades. He will be missed.

Fishman was a veteran of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade and served as the Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln (VALB) until his death. He helped lead the organization through the Cold War, and was called before the House Unamerican Affairs Committee.

He was active in Veterans for Peace and other organizations and was a visible participant in peace demonstrations including the protests against the Republican National Convention in 2003.

Read the obituary in the People's Weekly World newspaper.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Can't Stand the Heat in the Kitchen

You might not have fond memories of school lunches. I ate, but rarely cherished, lunches in school and during the summer at a Department of Recreation camp. As a kid I never thought about where the lunches came from or who cooked them. As I grew older and worked in several kitchens, I started to pay attention to the workers behind the meals.

The summer school free breakfast and lunch program is helping to turn out millions of essential meals for New York’s children. It is also cooking some of the workers who help to provide the meals.

Many of the New York City school kitchens do not have proper cooling systems and temperatures in the summer can soar to over 100 degrees. Many kitchens need upgraded air conditioning systems, some need more efficient stoves, others need new ventilation and exhaust systems. The Gotham Gazette reported in January 2006 that
“about 25 percent of school kitchens do not have a required hood system, which sucks hot air and grease into a vent and will drop a foam substance in the event of a fire.”
Without these safety systems in place, the schools must use convection ovens, which blow hot air to warm food, and make kitchens even more uncomfortable.

There is currently no federal or state legislation to protect kitchen workers from excessive heat in their workplaces. The New York State legislature has voted to pass such legislation for the last four years, each time vetoed by then governor Pataki. This year New York State Assembly Bill A02514A is waiting to be signed by current governor Elliott Spitzer. The governor has not stated whether he will sign the current legislation.

The bill is being opposed by Mayor Bloomberg claiming that it is “too expensive” to convert the cooling systems to regulate the temperatures in all school kitchens.

The bill’s author Assemblywoman Susan John's spokesman, Allan Richards was quoted in The Chief-Civil Service Leader newspaper saying,
"The cost is borne by the New York State Board of Education. The Legislature has appropriated $1.8 billion for school construction, so it's no longer a non-funded mandate."
Tony Ferina, a shop steward for Local 372 of District Council 37 AFSCME, which represents the kitchen workers, told the Chief,
"Whether or not you get in a school where there's air-conditioning is like hitting the lottery. A lot of the members are in their 50s. I think it's abuse."
It is ridiculous to make anyone work in excessive heat. Working in kitchens without proper ventilation should be criminal. People should not have to worry about passing out or vomiting from heat while on the job.

I have worked as a short order cook and with only one stove and one fryer it was always hot, even with a large exhaust fan. Without the exhaust fan I cannot imagine how unbearable it would have been.

Let’s hope Spitzer has more sense than his predecessor and signs this sensible bill into law.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

White Firefighters Stand Up Against Racism in Coram, NY

There are numerous examples in the media of racism and bigotry in our capitalist United States. Rarer are those examples of working-class solidarity across race lines. The later, of course, is a more accurate reflection of life today. Working people in small and anonymous ways stand up to discrimination and attempts to divide them racially everyday.

This fact contradicts the assumption many have that white workers are somehow more racist than white elites. That education and affluence are the keys to overcoming bigotry. Of course this myth goes hand-in-hand with the idea that racism is just an "opinion." In fact, the rich and the corporations fuel racism to divide workers and to increase profits, and to prop up the system as a whole. An individual white worker can certainly be bigoted, but institutional racism serves to undermine his wages, benefits and rights. That fact is learned by workers in struggle. It is the experience of the class struggle which is a key factor (enhanced, of course, by political education and training) in winning white workers to fight racism, both as an act of solidarity and an act of self-interest.

A dramatic example of fact occurred this week on Long Island recently in the town of Coram, NY. Coram, in Suffolk County, is a small city of 35,00 and is more than 75% white.

On May 19, a white fire district employee said to one of the few black firefighters in the town, "I don't like black people." When he heard about the incident, Fire Department Chief Ronald Curaba, who is white, confronted the official and literally got in his face condemning his comment and action.

In response, the Fire Commissioners voted to suspend the Chief , accusing him of assaulting the official. The official, who claims he was only joking was not punished.

But this wasn't a case of a lone hero. In response the the Chief's firing, the three assistant fire chiefs under him resigned in protest and said they wouldn't stand for racism. One of them was quoted in an article New York Newsday Friday.

"We don't tolerate racism," said Second Assistant Chief Robert Kinahan, one of the three who resigned. "This is a brotherhood. There's no room for that."

The Fire Commissioners seemed to disagree. Not only did they not punish the offender, they defended his comments at a hearing on the issue, also quoted in Newsday:

Commissioner Van Johnson insisted the remark was not racially charged.

"He said he didn't like black people. If I don't like Polish, Jewish, Catholics -- is that racist?" Johnson asked roomful of more than 50 volunteers gathered at the firehouse on Middle Country Road.

"Yeah, it is!" several volunteers shouted back.

"Isn't a man entitled to his opinion?" Johnson countered.

A voice across the room answered, "It's bigotry!"

While there is a stereotype of firefighters being racist, this incident tells a different tale. Of course, many fire departments are still heavily segregated and racist hazing of new Black and Latino recruit remains a practice in some places. But this story shows that when workers of different races stand shoulder-to-shoulder on the assembly line, at the negotiating table, on the picket line or in a burning building, racist ideas begin to break down. They learn the power of unity through the struggle and their class consciousness , their class identity emerges.

This is one of the reasons why desegregation is so important. When workers of different races work together, they begin to see where racism really comes from and who it serves. The heroic firefighters in Coram, NY are proof of that.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Make Your Voice Heard this Week for School Funding Priorities

The long winding battle for equitable school funding in New York has entered a new phase. Now that the State has been forced to pay up millions of dollars due to underfunded schools—mostly in New York City—the struggle begins for where and how the funds will be spent.

Last Friday, New York City Department of Education revealed their plan for the money, the Contracts for Excellence and Class Size Reduction. You can go to their web page, log in, and see how the new funds will effect your school and community.

The folks at Class Size Matters think the plan stinks, and held a press conference on the steps of City Hall saying so.

The plan is definitely weak. While we achieved a huge victory when in 2003 the New York Supreme Court ruled that unequal funding of school is unconstitutional, that was only the beginning of the battle. Now we have to make sure that Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein have a concrete plan to use the money to reduce class size, allocate resources to the lowest-performing schools, and address long-standing deficiencies. I am not sure the "contract" approach can meet the task. It goes back to having schools competing to prove their worth, instead of spending the money where it is most needed in a way that will have the biggest effect on teaching and learning.

I think four-point plan developed by the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) and the Alliance for Quality Education (AQE) is a good start:

Four-Point Plan
for Contracts for Excellence
  1. High need students first

  2. Make parents' voices count

  3. Accountability and transparency

  4. Follow the money to the schools

If you agree, you have to move quick to make your voice heard.

The public hearings on the allocations will only be held this week and written comments can be emailed until Saturday, July 14. You can also use the form email developed by AQE.

Check out the Campaign for Fiscal Equality for more information about the time and location of the hearings, the ongoing struggle for just funding and school funding generally.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Rents Go Up...Again

The New York City Rent Guidelines Board met Jun 26 for its final deliberations and vote for 2007. The Board composed of nine members appointed by the Mayor, meets annually holding hearing through the Spring in each borough of the city, culminating in a final decision on how much if any rent increase will be allowed for the city’s approximately 1 million units covered by rent control and rent stabilization, including apartments, lofts and Single Room Occupancy hotels.

The hearing was held in the Great Hall of Cooper Union and drew more than 200 tenants who will be affected by the Board’s decisions. Waiving signs calling for 0% increase, chanting slogans and singing songs about Board Chair Marvin “Markup” Markus, tenants showed their frustration with annual increases in rent despite breaks for landlords such as the recent tax breaks approved in the City Budget just days ago. There is not such tax break for tenants in the final version of the budget.

A press conference held before the hearing gave Mayor Michael Bloomberg a “F” for his policies on affordable housing. “You need to report to Summer School,” said one speaker. The mayor did not attend the hearing, but City Councilmember Robert Jackson did, handing out copies of his appeal to the Board to vote for no increase. “Please consider what even a 2% increase will mean to these families,” read his statement.

Despite the overwhelming opposition to the increase by hearing attendees and other advocates, the Board eventually adopted yet another increase, the 40th straight year they have done so. The final decision in a 5-4 vote was for a 3% increase for a one-year lease and 5.75% increase for a two-year lease on apartments. Similar increases were adopted for SROs and lofts. Advocates believe that the small premium on two-year leases will also encourage shorter renewals and higher renter turnover.

While rents were hiked, they did not go up as much as recent years' increases. This is no doubt do to increased awareness of housing issues in the city, and outspoken public pressure.

“Tenants continue to shoulder the burden,” said Adriene Holder before the final vote. Holder is one of the two tenant representatives on the Board of nine members. “The Rent Guidelines Board is part of the problem. And I am so embarrassed to be a part of the problem.” Holder and the other tenant representative voted no to the increase. The two owner representatives voted no as well, apparently because they believe the increase is too small.”

The rent increases are effective from October 1, 2007 through September 30, 2008.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Welcome to our New Weblog!

The New York State Communist Party is glad to announce its new weblog. We hope to use this venue to give our thoughts and opinions on various political, social and cultural developments in New York State. To begin with, we will have a general blog on all topics and areas, but hope to develop specific blogs for different areas of the State in which we work as well as topic specific blogs on the trade union movement, housing, etc. Periodically we will repost articles from the People's Weekly World newspaper on New York State developments.

We are the district organization of the Communist Party, USA, a working-class political party rooted in the struggles of the American people for peace, jobs, equality and socialism. We believe that the only lasting solution to poverty, oppression, environmental destruction, and war is a society based on the needs of working people, a Socialist USA.

We welcome our ideas, comments and questions, and hope you spread the word. In the next weeks and months, bear with us as we develop the look and feel of the blog. Your suggestions in this regard are encouraged.

Lastly, if you need to reach the New York State Communist Party, please email or call us at 212-924-0550. And don't forget to sign up for our weekly electronic newsletter by entering your email address in the right-hand column and clicking the button.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Libero Della Piana
State Chair
New York State Communist Party