February 28, 2011
By Kismet Barksdale
Over 700 union members and supporters thronged City Hall Park Thursday, February 24, 2011; delivering a message that they’re prepared to hang tough to push back against massive layoffs of city workers proposed by Mayor Mike Bloomberg. Speakers made the point that even after an extra $2 billion was found in the City’s budget, the Mayor is still pressing forward with plans to lay off up to 5,000 teachers.
Other titles have been mostly spared with some exceptions, including the proposed closing of 20 fire companies throughout the City. The rally was organized by DC 37’s Local 375 (President, Behrouz Fathi), representing City architects, engineers, and other technical professionals, but quickly galvanized the participation of other unions after word of the action was sent out over labor-friendly New York networks as well as by the national AFL-CIO. New York’s Central Labor Council also sent representatives.
It united municipal workers with unionists from private sector unions including AFTRA and RWDSU and even Teamsters from the Building Trades. Attendance was also boosted by a strong desire on the part of working people to show solidarity with the men and women represented by public sector unions in the State of Wisconsin, where Governor Scott Walker has vowed to end collective bargaining rights by legislative action.
Following speeches by union presidents and invited guests including members of the City Council, organizers asked the crowd to form a human chain around City Hall. The plan succeeded in creating a march around the seat of Mayoral power with union members yelling such slogans as “Cuomo, Walker Same Struggle, Same Fight,” “We Support Wisconsin,” and “Hey Hey, Ho Ho, City Layoffs Have Got to Go.” Some marchers called on Mayor Bloomberg to “Show his Face,” and others called for the government to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and use the money for human needs.
Organizers, including Local 375’s Frank Thomas, were pleased at the turnout and at the friendly attitude of the crowd that marched on a day where the temperature was higher and more pleasant than in the last few days. Also urging marchers to carry on were former Central Labor Council Executive Director Ed Ott and TWU Local 100 President John Samuelsen.