Austerity protests have become part of the new global landscape, a reality underscored by a wave of recent protests in Philadelphia and Quebec.
More than 1,000 people rallied Wednesday to protest the Philadelphia District’s plans to “transform schools,” a pleasant euphemism generally meaning school closures and mass layoffs. The Philly district plans to possibly lay off 2,700 blue-collar workers, including every member of SEIU B2BJ Local 1201, the city school union representing bus assistants, cleaners, mechanics and other workers.
Philly.com reports that all these workers have received pink slips and could be let go by the end of the year.
Eleven men and three women were arrested during Wednesday’s protest, including B2BJ president George Ricchezza, union health and welfare administrator Dennis Biondo and retired teachers Lisa Haver and Ronald Whitehorne, among others. They were later released and are to be arraigned in June.
The individuals were arrested for “clogging traffic,” according to a local CBS affiliate.
Earlier in the month, the school system announced that it expects to close forty public schools next year and sixty-four by 2017, shocking figures that received little national attention, prompting Black Agenda Report’s Bruce A. Dixon to publish an article titled, “Why Isn’t Closing 40 Philadelphia Public Schools National News?”
Shannon Lane, a bus aide for 16 years, faces being laid off at the end of the year. She’s angry that “wealthy corporations aren’t being taxed fairly, and public schools are being cut.”
And she doesn’t like the plan.
“This is privatization,” Lane said. “Children will lose.”
Students’ being on the losing side of austerity has become something of a global theme, prompting a massive student-led backlash in Quebec that so terrified officials that the government essentially tried to ban protests.
Needless to say, this censorship strategy did not work.