On June 14, District Council 37, the City’s largest public employee union, held a massive rally at City Hall. Thousands of DC 37 members and supporters turned out to deliver a resounding message: Stop cutbacks, layoffs and contracting out! Don’t balance the budget on the backs of working people!
The rally followed on the heels of a recent DC 37 report, which found that New York City is overlooking at least $800 million that could be generated by collecting taxes and fees it is owed and by cutting contractors’ charges.
DC 37 Executive Director Lillian Roberts addressed these issues, declaring, “The Bloomberg administration claims that there is no money to stop the cuts and layoffs, but that is totally false. The mayor and the governor cut taxes on the wealthy by $5 billion a year when they let the state ‘millionaires’ tax’ expire. The mayor is making no effort to collect the hundreds of millions of dollars in business taxes owed to the city.”
Roberts added that Bloomberg’s budget proposals increase contracting out by a half-billion dollars – even in the face of the continued arrests of his overpaid consultants and overwhelming evidence that too much of this money is wasted or stolen.
Others had strong words for the mayor as well, including Arthur Cheliotes, president of CWA Local 1180, who stated, “When billionaire Mayor Bloomberg cuts public workers and necessary public services, he attacks government by and for the people, the very essence of our democracy. He wants government by and for the elite rich, a government that bails them out and sends us working people the bill. Today we are telling the mayor and his billionaire friends it is time for some real shared sacrifice. We are saying, ‘Clean up your own mess.’”
The DC 37 rally was also part of a larger fight against unjust attacks on public workers’ jobs and pensions nationwide. Lee Saunders, the Sec.-Treas. of AFSCME, DC 37’s national union, pointed out that instead of bringing people together to solve the problems confronting the City and nation, politicians are telling working families to make all the sacrifices. “We must fight back and force Mayor Bloomberg and all the rest to join with us to create good jobs, to adequately fund vital public services and restore the middle class, the backbone of our nation,” he concluded.
Saunders’ message was accentuated by representatives from the front lines of public workers struggles in Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana, who were cheered enthusiastically by the huge crowd as they told of their experiences.