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.
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 www.fightthecuts.org for more information about the struggle against the cuts in New York State.
Reprinted from Political Affairs Editor's Blog