Mayor Bloomberg announced Friday that he intends to eliminate 4,100 teaching jobs through layoffs and another 2,000 through attrition.
In response, a broad coalition of students, unions and activist groups have planned a May 12 march on Wall Street to demand the big banks and millionaires start paying their fair share during these times of economic crisis.
“There is no revenue crisis; there is an inequality crisis,” On May 12’s organizers said in a written statement. “The Big Banks that crashed our economy, destroyed jobs, caused millions to lose their homes, and bankrupted city and state budgets, are reaping record profits—and yet they are refusing to pay their fair share of what it will take to rebuild our economy. From Wisconsin to Wall Street people are fighting back!“
The event website features videos from participants who explain why they’ll be taking part in the march.
Organizers are planning for thousands of working people, students, seniors, people on public assistance, and community activists to descend upon Wall Street this Thursday. Participants include SEIU workers, the United Federation of Teachers, the Communication Workers of America, ACT UP, Code Pink, Greater NYC for Change, Urban Youth Collaborative, the Working Families Party, and many more. (A full list of the parties involved can be found at the event’s official website).
The city’s billionaire mayor attempted to soothe constituents’ nerves when he announced the mass firings. “I understand the frustration that parents and teachers feel; I feel it too,” he said.
His statement didn’t impress students, parents, and teachers from Francis Lewis High School, who joined forces with some local politicians to protest the potential layoffs. Protesters held signs that read, “You say cut back, we say fight back!” and “Remove snow, not teachers!”
Bloomberg is also taking heat for his proposal to close 20 fire engine companies and slash library funds by 29 percent, a move that critics claim will force branches to open only three days a week.
The mayor did manage to find funds for 4,400 of the 16,000 child-care slots for low-income children that were scheduled to be cut, though opponents dismissed the administration’s boasting as a “shell game” because the funding is still a $50 million drop in funding compared to last year. Additionally, the administration refused to consider tax increases on the wealthy to raise funds.
Bloomberg has consistently placed the blame for the cuts on Albany which slashed funding for the city. In turn, Governor Cuomo says austerity is necessary to balance the state’s books.
The Democratic governor’s time in office has been highly contentious. Just three months into his term, hundreds of citizens turned out to protest his budget cuts.
"Andrew Cuomo’s budget is straight out of Reagan’s playbook," said Richard Kirsch, a senior fellow at the Roosevelt Institute think tank. "It’s tax cuts for the rich at the expense of everyone else."
It was Cuomo who implemented historic cuts ($1.5 billion) to school aid and healthcare for the poor ($2.4 billion) without increasing taxes and blocked the Assembly Democrats’ effort to continue an income tax surcharge on New Yorkers making over $200,000 a year. Then he blocked a compromise that would have increased the tax only on those making $1 million a year.
Whether the weight of blame falls on Bloomberg or Cuomo (or both), the state’s leaders continue their tradition of asking the poor to sacrifice while refusing to ask the same of the rich and privileged.