NEW YORK — Billionaire Mayor Mike Bloomberg has unveiled his doomsday budget proposal for workers here. To close a projected $4 billion budget deficit, Bloomberg — whose private fortune totals $20 billion (Forbes, 10/6/2008 ) — wants to lay off 23,000 workers and get the city worker unions to give back $1 billion from pensions, health benefits, etc. He counts on the union leaders to convince members to take all these attacks without fighting back. That’s exactly what happened during the NYC fiscal crisis of the 1970s. Union workers were told they were saving the city. What they really saved was capitalism. They never regained the contract givebacks from thirty years ago. The working people of NYC lived with a level of city services that didn’t come close to meeting their needs. As is always the case, black and Latin workers were hit the hardest by both layoffs and the resulting service cuts. Let’s not make the same mistake this time.
Strikers at the Stella D’Oro bakery show that some workers are willing to fight against their vicious bosses. Communists in PLP vow to give leadership in the struggle to fight Bloomberg’s proposed layoffs. We will help to build the unity needed to fight the cutback plans. We will explain the nature of the capitalist system that exploits us and destroys our lives. We will explain how a communist revolution will put an end to racism, inequality and oppression.
Workers here as elsewhere are already reeling from the financial meltdown, home foreclosure crisis and an uncertain future for themselves and their children. During 2008, city agencies twice had their operating budgets slashed by $1.5 billion. What do an additional 23,000 layoffs mean? 15,000 of the layoffs target the city schools. They mean more students per teacher, less support staff and longer waiting time for needed repairs in school buildings. In city hospitals, people will literally die from the layoffs. That’s what happens when wards, rooms and halls are not kept clean. That’s what happens when patient-to-staff ratios increase. Every city agency will see similar results as they become less able to provide needed services from providing clean water to repairing pot holes.
What about the so-called fat pensions, health benefits and pay those on city payroll get? “Good government” types say that the average city worker earns about $100,000 per year. In reality, the average wage of 120,000 District Council 37 city workers is about $33,000 per year. Since 1995, they have lost between 7-10 % in real wages because their pay hasn’t kept up with the rising cost of living. Contrast that to the pay of New Yorkers making $200,000 and over. They saw a real increase in pay of 96% during the same period (3/28/08 Chief Leader). Since pensions are a fraction of gross pay, DC 37 members can hardly have fat pensions. Likewise, city workers have been forced to pay an ever increasing share of their medical costs. If this seems similar to what’s happening to you, it’s because workers all over this country and around the world are facing a similar attack on their living standards.
We shouldn’t pay for the problems that capitalism creates. We didn’t cause the financial crisis. We should make the bosses take the losses caused by their system and their greed. If the union leaders call for sharing the pain of cutbacks “fairly,” we should say no! Rather than saving this racist, exploitative rotten system, we should be fighting to overthrow it. We should be planning to replace it with communism, a society of production to meet human needs not greed, a society where working-class unity is built while racism and sexism is outlawed.