On January 20, 2021, Inauguration Day, rank & file workers from across the public sector in New York City — including nurses, MTA workers, K-12 educators, Adult Education workers, and CUNY professors — will gather in Zuccotti Park at 04:30 p.m. to demand the new Biden administration and New York Democratic politicians cease the harmful and racist austerity regime, and tax the rich as a means of generating revenue for social spending. The city’s public schools, transportation, and hospitals are being eroded and thousands of workers have already been laid-off, with many more preparing for job losses. These policies, magnified by the continued unwillingness of Governor Cuomo and Mayor De Blasio to pour money into the public sector, gravely impact poor, working class, and Black and Brown communities the most.
With the election of Joe Biden, there is an enormous opportunity to push budgetary priorities back toward an investment in public health, infrastructure, and education. Public sector workers will not sit idly by and assume politicians will do this work on their own. They will hold the politicians to task and take to the streets to ensure these goals become policy, rectifying Trump’s conservative regime and the neoliberal currents in the previous decades that led to this point. The far right wants to stop this movement, has threatened more attacks on official government buildings, and has refused to concede the certified results of the election. However, the rank & file worker response will be stronger than ever.
The disastrous government handling of CoViD-19 has already claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands and deepened economic misery. It has also exposed and exacerbated overlapping, longstanding crises including the wave of evictions, decades of police brutality and impunity, inequality, racism, and cuts to public services. Public sector workers and union members make the city’s schools, hospitals, and transportation function every day. They see firsthand what happens when those in power at all levels seek to resolve these problems on the backs of working people, the poor, immigrants, people with disabilities, people of color, and the marginalized.
- After being threatened with 20,000 layoffs, NYC public sector workers were forced to provide the city $1 billion in givebacks taken from delaying much needed backpay and weakening benefit funds. This money needs not only to be restored but to be increased.
- The state education budget has been frozen, with a reduction in tuition payments and no new funding for pre-K special education.
- Governor Cuomo cut state Medicaid funding by over $2 billion, which will have an ongoing impact on NYC Health and Hospitals’ public healthcare system.
- Hiring throughout much of NYC’s public sector has been frozen, with the stated goal of reducing the essential public sector workforce. 22K City workers may be at risk of layoffs again once the “no layoffs” agreement expires in June.
- Numerous NYC public schools continue with dangerous in-person schooling as CoViD spreads at a faster rate than ever throughout the country.
- Cuomo is withholding 20% of the budget from the City University of New York for the Spring semester, contractual raises have been indefinitely deferred, and almost 3000 adjunct professors have been laid off and hundreds more put on month-to-month contracts.
- 9,000 MTA workers were threatened with layoffs which were only averted because of public pressure. Currently, NYers are threatened with another transit fare hike.
- Projected budget deficits number in the tens of billions between NYC and NYS and the public sector workforce should not bear the burden of this deficit as we have already sacrificed the most in the last year.
“We have lost at least 500 city workers to this virus. We have risked our lives to save others – getting people to the hospital, caring for them, educating them, and overall keeping this city running. Billionaires have sat in their suburban mansions and cashed in. We will not stand by silently while the rich benefit from years of tax breaks while our budgets get drained and our services destroyed. Cuomo can fix this with a couple calls and a stroke of the pen. He should do so immediately,” said Sean Petty, Pediatric Emergency Room Nurse, Health and Hospitals / Jacobi.
This network of rank and file public workers, students, and allies across multiple sectors demand higher taxes on the wealthy in order to fully fund public goods and end austerity for working people. The city, state, and country can afford it. The growing concentration of wealth in the top 1% and major corporations is seemingly endless. Working people watched and learned from the last recession and will gather in Zuccotti Park on Inauguration Day because Joe Biden and the Democrats who remain in power must be held to account.