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Unions under attack
NY Loves Wisconsin Workers
UFTers turn out for rallies in support of labor rights
by Michael Hirsch, Micah Landau | March 10, 2011 New York Teacher issue
As the battle escalates in the Wisconsin fight over public-sector unions’ collective-bargaining rights, UFT members have turned out in support of their fellow union members at a series of rallies and demonstrations.
On Feb. 26, they were among several thousand protestors gathered outside City Hall, part of the nationwide Save the American Dream rallies that brought people into the streets in support of the Wisconsinites’ struggle. There were rallies that day in all 50 state capitals.
For Marian Swerdlow, a 21-year veteran social studies teacher at Brooklyn’s FDR HS, the fight in Wisconsin is the same as the teachers’ fight here in New York.
“Bloomberg’s agenda is in the same category as Walker’s,” she said. “His threat to lay off teachers is also meant to weaken union rights.”
Lisa North, the chapter leader at PS 3, also in Brooklyn, drew another important connection between the two fights.
“The kind of budget cuts they want to make across the country are the same they do here in New York. Do we want the people that have benefited from the rising stock market to pay their fair share or are we going to make public employees and students pay for a crisis we didn’t cause?” she asked.
UFT members also joined some 200 union members, labor leaders and elected officials for a Feb. 23 rally on the steps of City Hall.
“It’s not about a budget fix; it’s about breaking unions,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew told the animated crowd. “It’s about elected officials saying ‘you have no right to organize.’”
Milwaukee union leader Mark Maierle, from Operating Engineers Local 317, thanked the crowd for its support in “this unprecedented attack from the Wisconsin governor and the legislature.” Maierle’s members are among the tens of thousands of people rallying day after day in Madison and occupying the state capitol.
Among the dozens of city labor leaders attending was Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Workers Union. Appelbaum called Gov. Walker’s moves a direct attack against working people and the middle class. “It’s all about cuts to workers to pay for tax cuts to the rich. Is there no limit to their greed?” he asked.
Protesters from the city’s public-sector unions made much the same point at a rally of 500 outside Fox News’ midtown headquarters a day earlier, blasting budget cuts and the attacks on public employees.
Jason Schulman, an adjunct assistant professor at Lehman and John Jay colleges and a member of the Professional Staff Congress, the union representing CUNY faculty and staff, said he attended the rally to show solidarity with the workers in Wisconsin but also to protest budget cuts at CUNY. He said the proposed cuts would prevent CUNY from hiring new faculty while raising tuition significantly and putting a college education out of reach for many low-income students.
“They should be taxing the wealthy. There should be a financial transaction tax and a heavy, graduated progressive income tax,” Schulman said.
Among the other demonstrators was Laura Ayala, a Teacher Center staff member at PS 48 in Washington Heights. “I came here to stand in solidarity with the working people of Wisconsin and tell them we know it’s a national struggle,” she said.
UFT Retired Teachers Chapter members took part in a number of solidarity rallies across the country, including in Las Vegas, where RTC Section Coordinator Richard Miller, a former UFT vice president for middle schools, is among those involved. RTC Chapter Leader Tom Murphy noted that four UFT retirees joined protesters in Wisconsin.
What is your favorite movie about a teacher?
Dead Poets Society
Stand and Deliver
Mr. Holland's Opus
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