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.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Taking it to Wall Street: Rallies vs. bailout crowd 'the street'

By Libero Della Piana

NEW YORK—Unions, civil rights groups and community organizations called a series of protest rallies on Wall Street this week in response to President George Bush’s plan to bailout financial firms with no strings attached.

“Our country is facing the biggest financial disaster since the Great Depression.,” said AFL-CIO President John Sweeney at the New York City Central Labor Council noontime rally on Sept 25. Nearly 1,000 union members gathered within earshot of the American Stock Exchange to demand Congress “bailout Main Street not Wall Street.”

“But for working people, this crisis is not new. Working people have been living this crisis with lost jobs and stagnant wages, crumbling schools and roads, with eroding healthcare and disappearing pensions.”

Sweeney went on to say that the then proposed bailout “does not even begin to address the roots of our crisis. It’s a bailout that simply ignores the real problems of working families.”
Labor Council Executive Director Ed Ott was MC at the rally, speakers at which included Randi Weingearten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, Barbara Bowen, president of the Professional Staff Congress of the City University of New York, Lillian Roberts, executive director of District Council 37 of the American Federation of State Councty and Municipal Employees, and other New York labor leaders.

The Labor Council announced in a press release the same day “Seven Conditions for $700 Billion Bailout Plan,” which includes a stop to home foreclosure, aggressive public oversight, repeal of the Bush tax cuts, and overhaul of financial governance and regulation.
Later that same day, hundreds gathered near the Wall Street Bull, a 7,000-lb bronze sculpture in the financial district, forming just one of over 250 protests held nationwide at the same time. Called by US Action, Jobs with Justice, ACORN, United for Peace & Justice and other groups, the protests declared, “No Bush bailout!”

The diverse crowd carried homemade signs, sang songs and chanted slogans. Many protestors brought “junk” from home as an ironic stunt mocking the “cash for trash” deal in which the U.S. government will buy bad loans from financial institutes in order to aid their liquidity. Some protestors made their way up Broadway to Wall Street and gathered on the steps of Federal Hall, site of George Washington’s oath of office, which is kitty-corner from the Stock Exchange.

After announcement of a deal on the bailout in Congress Sept. 29, hundreds of union members rallied again on Wall Street in a protest called by Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union (TWU), 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s RainbowPUSH Coalition.

“The plan in Washington today involves too much money, controlled by too few people, without enough transparency,” said Jackson. “We should not be panicked into signing. We need hearings now. We need to save workers now. We need to save homeowners now.”

“If you want taxpayers’ money, then you should be accountable to the taxpayers,” TWU President Roger Toussaint said to Wall Street financiers. “If you want taxpayers’ money, then taxpayers should share in the upside not just the downside. If you want taxpayers’ money, then you have to make sure there are assurances against this happening again. If you want taxpayers’ money, then you have to curb excessive CEO pay. If you want taxpayers’ money, then we want assistance given to the victims not the predators. If you want taxpayers’ money, then we want protections for public employees, private employees, working people’s pension funds. If you want taxpayers’ money, then we want the money invested in the real economy—in healthcare and education, in mass transit, in our parks, our libraries. We want money invested where it matters.”

Congressional Democrats had tacked a number of measures onto the bailout before this week’s vote to ensure some protections for taxpayers and more economic protections for average Americans.

“The bulls and the bears of Wall Street have mauled and gored the American people for the very last time,” said Arthur Cheliotes, president of Local 1180 of the Communication Workers of America. “The free market doesn’t work. The free market is the law of the jungle. And in a jungle, only the biggest and the baddest survive.”

1199 Secretary-Treasurer Maria Castaneda added, “What we are watching is the cumulative effect of the failed policies of Bush/McCain for the last eight years. We cannot afford four more years.”

While many speakers pointed out the complicity of both major parties in the deregulation of the financial sector, they also made it clear the difference between the two presidential candidates when it comes to financial governance. “They want a McCain/Reagan moment. We want a Roosevelt/Obama moment,” said Jackson.

Jackson ended Monday’s rally by calling for a massive march on Washington demanding economic democracy regardless the outcome of the current legislation in Congress. Participants dispersed with little idea that Congress was at that moment voting down the compromise bailout.

Reprinted from the People's Weekly World.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Jesse Jackon and Unions Protest on Wall Street

Before news that the bailout package failed today in Washington, hundreds of trade union members and civil rights advocates gathered on Wall Street to protest any bailout that favored Wall Street over Main Street.

Called by the Transport Workers Union Local 100, 1199 United Healthcare Workers East and Rev. Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, the rally was held within site of the New York Stock Exchange on the very day that markets had their worst one-day fall in 20 years.

Here are photos from the rally. A full article in the People's Weekly World to follow.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Wall Street Demos Protest Bailout

Two big rallies rocked Wall Street today as Congress debated the Bush plan to bailout the financial elites. One called by the New York City Central labor Council and the other by a broad coalition of groups including United for Peace and Justice, US Action, True Majority, Acorn, to name a few.

The main message of each demonstration was to call on Congress to refuse any bailout of Wall Street without a real bailout of Main Street, transparency, accountability and controls. A full article will follow, but for now, here are some photos from the two events held hours and blocks apart.

Labor Rally at Noon on Broad Street and Exchange Place:

4pm Rally at the Wall Street "Bull":

Friday, September 5, 2008

NYC Labor Day: Time for a Change

This Labor Day working people and their families in New York State are in an exciting and challenging moment. For the first time in years, the labor movement together with its broad movement allies, has the potential to change the course of the country in a more positive direction.

The 2008 Presidential election is historic. Not only has the Democratic Party nominated an African American as its candidate for the first time, but there have also been record turnouts in the primaries and a vibrant grassroots movement has developed.

What’s at stake for working people in the election couldn’t be starker.

McCain represents four more years of the failed Bush policies of war and aggression, tax-breaks for the rich and big corporations, and destruction of social services vital to working-class communities. On the other hand, the candidacy of Barack Obama reflects and represents the massive desire for change: for a livable environment and a sustainable world, for jobs with justice, for peace and progress, for fair taxes and a program to rebuild our cities and towns. Let's be clear, there is a big difference between these two choices. McCain is no "maverick." He is a real conservative who puts the "rights" of the rich and corporations ahead of the needs of the working majority. McCain received a dismal zero percent pro-labor voting record for 2007 while Obama has a stellar 100 percent record and said he looks forward to signing the Employee Free Choice Act into law as our next President.

25 percent of the Democratic Party’s Convention delegates were union members, while the GOP Convention speakers took turns bashing unions and blaming them for the economic crisis in the country.

Of course, deeper Democratic majorities in the House and Senate and in an increase in progressives in the Congress will also shift the terrain in Washington, opening the way for legislation to turn-back the damage of the Bush years, and to repair the country from 30 years of right-wing rule. This is no time to sit out the election.

We not only have a chance to undo the Bush Agenda, but to win big transformative victories and set the stage for higher levels of struggle. A decisive electoral victory in November will lead the way to passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, the end of the occupation of Iraq and implement some form a of national health care. The working-class has been on the defensive for decades, this election has the chance to put the movements back on offense, to set the agenda for the country.

The potential for change is not just in Washington. There is a chance for a shift in the balance of forces in Albany as well. For the first time in decades, the Republicans could lose control of the New York State Senate. No longer will they be able to block progressive legislation, block taxation on the rich, and block reform of out-of-date laws like the Taylor Law, which bans public workers from striking.

A big people’s victory in November is not the end of the struggle, but a new beginning on more favorable ground. The mass movements of the people: the peace movement, student movement, civil rights movement, women’s movement, and labor movement have to keep the pressure on to ensure a new Democratic Administration and Legislature keep the promise to meet the people’s needs.

Together, we can win in November and together we can go on the to change the world.