News, commentary and analysis by leaders of the Communist Party USA in New York State. We discuss State politics and issues in New York City, covering developments in labor, civil rights education, housing and more.

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.