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March for Jobs and Economic Fairness
Thousands take giant steps for working people
by Micah Landau and Michael Hirsch | December 22, 2011 New York Teacher issue
In a show of labor-union strength in New York City, 20,000 unionized workers, including thousands of UFT members, marched from Herald Square to Union Square on Dec. 1 to demand jobs and a fairer tax system for working Americans.
Watching the teeming crowd from the head of the line, UFT President Michael Mulgrew said the march was yet another example of “labor standing up for their families, neighbors and communities. It’s time local elected officials roll up their sleeves and find solutions, because it’s clear Washington isn’t doing anything for New York or any other state.”
Asked what remedies he advocated for the economic crisis facing the country, Mulgrew responded, “The need today is for a real jobs package, with fairness in the tax system. Cuts just can’t work.”
Janella Hinds, the New York City Central Labor Council’s secretary-treasurer and a UFT special representative, explained why the Council had called the march.
“We’re here today because we want jobs for the 14 million Americans who are now unemployed, and because we want an end to the unfair economic policies that favor the wealthy over working people,” Hinds said.
Pat Arnow The march took place just hours after 22,000 New York City office cleaners represented by SEIU’s Local 32BJ voted to authorize a strike, a fitting backdrop that reflected a resurgent city labor movement that is fighting back against a barrage of attacks.
There were no speakers, podium or politicians, a decision made by the Central Labor Council, but the marchers’ signs and chants told the story. While UFT members equipped with whistles chanted “Whose schools? Our schools!” and brandished signs reading “Keep Public Education Public” and “Money for Schools, Not Tax Cuts for Millionaires,” workers from Verizon, in the midst of tough bargaining with the telecom giant, carried signs calling the event “the March of the 99%” and their employer “Verigreedy.”
Contingents from several Teamster locals were there, too, carrying signs that said: “Stop the War on Workers” and “No Jobs, No Recovery.”
Ed Ludde, a math teacher at William H. Maxwell HS in Brooklyn, said, “It’s about time we stood up.” He credited the Occupy Wall Street movement with shifting the public discussion from deficits and cutbacks to “making the rich pay.”
More than 50 teachers, both in-service and retired, showed up from IS 125 in Woodside, Queens, a credit to Chapter Leader Judith Glazer, who said she and her colleagues are concerned about school budget cuts that are hurting the classroom.
“This will be the fourth or fifth year of cuts,” Glazer said. “Where will they come from? We have nothing left.”
Already, she said, her school has no money for supplies, and both student clubs and afterschool programming have been cut.
One educator, Lucas Rotman, from PS 276 in Battery Park, did what he could to lighten the mood, playing guitar as he led his equally spirited colleagues through American folk and protest classics such as “This Land is Your Land,” “If I Had a Hammer” and “This Little Light of Mine.”
Like the songs that he sang, Rotman had a serious message to convey.
“I think as teachers, we’re on the front lines. We’re seeing how kids and families are being affected by cutbacks,” the kindergarten teacher said. “I’m here to stand up for families, kids and especially schools — because we’re all being cut to the bone, and it’s not right.”