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.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

MTA: No fare hikes or service cuts!

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority plans draconian service cuts, while raising fares and imposing additional costs on those who commute by car. This is the wrong solution at the wrong time.

It is unacceptable for the MTA to force commuters to pay more—for less—at a time when they are already feeling the pinch in a thousand other ways: the housing crisis, the increased threat of unemployment, mountains of debt, and so on. Higher fares will mean that more people will have to make a choice between medicine or the bus, food or the subway.

Because of the high price of Manhattan real estate, many working families live far away, in the outer boroughs, Long Island, or elsewhere. Many of these areas have no public transportation to speak of, and, consequently, these people, pushed to the outskirts by poverty, have to drive to work. Raising tolls or even creating new tolls on the East River bridges will hurt them directly.

Service cuts will mean that thousands of New Yorkers will shoulder an increased burden, and greater danger when trying to get to and from their jobs or schools.

The current deficit at the MTA must not be resolved on the backs of working people.

The plan to lay off thousands of workers and cut expenses is in stark contrast to President-elect Barack Obama’s policy statements, in which he argues the need to pump money into the real economy in order to maintain necessary services and ensure that the financial crisis isn’t solved on the backs of working people. Obama has called for major public works programs to restore public infrastructure and green the economy. By employing more people who can therefore spend more on necessities, increased government spending can only stimulate the faltering economy.

Conversely, laying off thousands of MTA workers will play a part in deepening the financial local financial crisis.

In keeping with President-elect Obama’s plan to rebuild infrastructure, the MTA, to further stimulate the should employ more people and direct more resources to improve service, keep the rail system up to date, and build certain necessary projects, like the Second Avenue subway line. After all, there is hardly any infrastructure in the region more major than our transportation system. Without it, the city and metropolitan region would fail.

The argument that the proposed extra costs will reduce pollution is, at best, spurious. Though thousands of people would rather take public transit into the city, in many areas, it is simply not available. To reduce pollution, more service, not less, is needed. There are wide swaths of Brooklyn and Queens that are without rail service.

The MTA’s operating and capital investment budgets must not only be funded, but expanded. This is not impossible, even in the current financial environment. First, the MTA must not waste money through sweetheart deals with big developers. A colossal amount of money was wasted when the MTA agreed to sell air rights to the Atlantic Yards to Forest City Ratner for $50 million, though the independently assessed value was as high as $900 million. Even when another firm offered a higher bid, the MTA chose to go with Forest City Ratner. Other projects, like the proposed extension of the 7 subway line, which is essentially a multi-billion dollar gift to the developers, could be postponed.

The state and city should make sure that the MTA can make up its shortfall; where it can’t it they should go into debt if necessary, borrow as much as is needed. Instead of balancing the deficit on the backs of working people, the state could finally impose the millionaires' tax to fund both the MTA and other city and state programs. They must do whatever is needed to ensure that the MTA doesn’t help to further deteriorate the lives of working people in and around New York. It’s likely that money will come from the federal government in the next administration; even if it doesn’t, borrowing and spending are the only responsible way forward.

The people of New York can’t afford anything else.

By Dan Margolis
for the New York State Communist Party

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Albany budget fight's demand: Get the rich to pay!

By Phil Benjamin

Over 2,000 public sector workers/unions and leaders of community based organizations, who are facing massive budget cuts, gathered on the steps of the New York State Capitol to demand fairness in the budget. Their slogans were lead by, "One New York: Fighting for Fairness."

They gathered as the Governor and State legislature was gathering to debate the deficits the state would be facing.

Lead by the Hunger Action Network the assembly activists showed a level of rage and fear that has not been seen in Albany for many years.

Most speakers told how budget cuts were severely hurting those people who are already in great distress. "Enough is enough" was their cry.

One chant that was very popular was, "We Didn't Cause It; We Shouldn't Pay for It."

Bob Master, a leader of the Working Families Party, and Barbara Bowen, President of the Professional Staff Congress [representing City University of New York faculty and staff] both pointed their demands at the wealthy of the State. "They should pay their fair share before those who are in great risk pay anything was a theme." Any sources of revenue, "must start at the top."

Bowen said there is a "Revenue Problem, not a budget problem." She said that the tax breaks given the wealthy over the past years would have more than paid for the current budget deficit. That is where the governor and legislatures should look for money, with those wealthy New Yorkers.

The rally took place in a driving snowstorm, but the weather did not diminish the militancy of the labor and community activists. They seem to ready for upcoming struggles.

The Special Session was adjourned before it was even officially started. Efforts at a deal over the weekend fell through. This set up today's events.

Some demonstrators said that it seemed that this special session and attention to the deficits were being presented at this time to coincide with the US Congress's upcoming special session where a new economic stimulus package will probably be enacted.

One thing is for sure is that the upcoming days, weeks and months will be filled with major rallies and demonstrations.

Teachers Union

Richard Iannuzzi, head of the New York State United Teachers, the 600,000 member union which represents all teachers in NY State, public school to college level and also staff members, called for a progressive tax program to deal with the deficits.

Phil Smith, president of the United University Professions, which represents faculty and staff at the State University of New York sounded the same theme.

Public Employees Federation [PEF] representatives angrily call on New York State to stop outsourcing their work. He said it costs the state millions of dollars. He said that work must be done by PEF members for far less cost to the State.

Other unions at the rally were SEIU 32 BJ and SEIU Local 1199 with their partner, their employer, the Greater New York Hospital Association.

Next Session in 2009

In 2009, the next time the Governor meets with the Assembly and Senate of NY State, all three will be the hands of the Democratic Party. This will be the first time in over 70 years that Democrats will have that level of political power. This is uncharted ground that should make the next session very interesting.

Across the Country

Across the country scenes like the one in Albany are being repeated. For example, in California, where the budget deficits are in the billions, their state capitol in Sacramento has seen many demonstrations. Readers are encouraged to send in their state capitol experiences.

Check out for more information about the struggle against the cuts in New York State.

Reprinted from Political Affairs Editor's Blog

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

NY Unions Will Say a Loud "No" to Paterson Cuts

by Phil E. Benjamin

Tues, Nov. 18 on the State Capitol steps and for blocks around them, tens of thousands of workers and their unions, coupled with community activists, will be demonstrating against the budget cuts being proposed by Democratic Governor David Paterson.

Calling a special, post election session, of the New York State Assembly and Senate, Paterson hoped to preempt the 2009 budget session by getting agreement with elected officials from the Republican, soon to be Democratic, Senate and long time Democratic Assembly, that budget cuts must be made to fill the proposed $1.5 billion deficit for the year 2009. That agreement over the weekend failed.

He failed to get preliminary agreement over the weekend when he met with the leaders of those bodies. Now, the Special Session will face the wrath of the New York State United Teachers [NYSUT], over 500,000 strong, and many other unions. NYSUT represents all, and I mean all, teachers in New York State; public school teachers, college and universities [SUNY and CUNY].

Tomorrow's blog will fill in the list of demonstrators.

Stay tuned.

Reprinted fom Political Affairs Editors' Blog

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Dawn of a New Era

People's Weekly World Editorial

A seismic shift, a watershed moment, an electoral landslide or the dawn of a new era. No matter what the turn of phrase, Nov. 4, 2008, will go down in the history books as the beginning of the end of the 30-year political reign of the ultra-right and its vicious pro-corporate agenda, and the end of a beginning of new politics in the United States of America.

Convinced by the power of one man’s arguments for hope, unity and change, his program and example, a 52 percent majority of voters rejected the old politics of fear, racism and red-baiting and elected Barack Obama the 44th president of the United States.

Perhaps it was historically inevitable that this country elected its first African American president. The dynamics of slavery, race and racism, together with the historic role of the African American freedom movement in helping propel the expansion of democracy for all people, have always been a central narrative to the making of America.

An accident of history, maybe, is the fact that in 2009 the country will celebrate the bicentennial birthday of another tall, lanky, transformative figure from Illinois: Abraham Lincoln.

In this age of 24-hour news cycles and instant information, when a seismic victory happens it’s important to take a breath and reflect even while celebrating. There will be analysis in the coming weeks in our pages and web site. We’ll be taking closer looks at the many different actors, issues and developments.

But here is an initial take, a basic framework to ponder and analyze such a momentous moment. This was a victory for the whole U.S. working class. And workers of all job titles, professions, shapes, colors, sizes, hairstyles and languages put their indelible stamp on this victory.

This is an important point to ponder, not only for people here in the U.S., but also for our sisters and brothers around the world. The U.S. working class is pushing for a new day — in which our country can be a good global citizen and not the “rogue state” the Bush administration has projected.

The most organized section of the working class — the labor movement — played a stellar role in this election, organizing more than 250,000 labor activists in critical battleground states. But it was its role in challenging and educating union members on racial bias, coupled with a program for economic recovery, that labor proved its invaluable mettle.

A powerful coalition of forces, inspired towards a new kind of politics, bubbled up from the ground of discontent sown by the authoritarian, reckless and greed-driven policies of the Bush administration. Union members and retirees of all races and the African American people as a whole joined with the emerging political might of Latinos — Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, Cuban Americans and others — and with women and young people en masse to successfully challenge the power of the ultra-right. And the seeds of a renewed and strengthened Jewish-Black unity — historically so key to civil rights progress — are taking root.

Such unity — as President-elect Obama said — of “young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled” is an idea that has been grasped by millions of people and made into a material force shattering the Republicans’ “Southern strategy” and forcing this party of the reactionary right into a meltdown.

The election outcome represents a clear mandate for pro-people change on taxes, health care, the war in Iraq, job creation and economic relief, union organizing and the Employee Free Choice Act. Reform and relief are in the air. Their scope and depth will be the arena of struggle. The best thing the coalition that won this victory can do is to stick together and help the new administration carry through on its promises. We suspect an Obama administration will have to govern from the center with progressive and left voices included in the dialogue along with conservatives. The ultra-right and corporate interests will do everything in their power to limit, and even steal, the people’s victory.

Jubilation and celebration, yes, along with realization that the hard work is just beginning.

Reprinted from the People's Weekly World