NEW YORK – Recently, while announcing a major anti-Bush labor protest during the Republican National Convention, New York City Central Labor Council (NYCCLC) President Brian McLaughlin called George W. Bush “the working person’s worst nightmare.” Indeed, the policies of the Bush administration seem like a bad dream.
In New York City, labor is confronting its billionaire mayor, Michael Bloomberg, who is willing to spend tens of millions on harebrained development schemes and sports stadium giveaways, but has no money for public workers or public works. Tens of thousands of municipal workers have gone years without contracts.
While NYC schools have seen a 25-percent increase in class size and maintenance of aging facilities has been cut back, New York Governor and Bush supporter George Pataki has failed to meet a court-mandated order to remedy the grossly inadequate funding for urban school districts.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the quasi-governmental agency that operates the New York metro area’s transportation system, has recently issued a preliminary “doomsday budget,” projecting huge deficits and threatening workers and commuters with severe cuts in service and maintenance.
In addition, NYC is facing a severe employment crisis: 50 percent of the city’s African American male population is unemployed. That this catastrophic situation has received virtually no press and scant attention from the Republican leadership at the city, state and federal levels speaks volumes about their priorities.
How is it possible that in one of the richest cities in the richest country in the world, there is no money to pay school cafeteria workers, librarians, teachers, cops and firefighters a decent wage?
Nationwide, public workers are confronted with state and local governments in financial crisis and consequent cuts in public spending. In the private sector, millions of jobs have been lost since President Bush took office. Pension and health benefits are under attack, as are and labor rights, from the assault on the 40-hour week to the attack on the right to organize.
There is a nationwide crisis in public education, in large part the result of inadequate federal aid to education. Meanwhile, a recent report has indicated that charter schools, one of the underpinnings of the Bushites’ phony “No Child Left Behind,” have been a dismal failure.
While there is no money for cities and states or for education, military spending continues to mushroom with $416 billion for military contractors and wars of conquest.
Bush and the extreme right are running a campaign based on divisive and distorted issues. They can’t run on their real agenda. To win they have to convince millions of working people to vote for them, people who will, objectively, suffer great harm if the Bush administration is allowed to implement their actual program.
Bush’s ideologically driven tax policy has helped create a record high federal deficit – more then $400 billion – and has helped bankrupt the states. The effect of this tax policy has been to shift the tax burden down to those in the middle-income brackets. In fact, driven by an extreme, right-wing ideology, Bush and his cronies intend to bankrupt government at all levels, crippling all the functions of the public sector, save “coercive” ones.
The assault on the 40-hour week is similarly ideologically driven as part of their general attack on labor. On Aug. 23 the Bush administration took away overtime and the 40-hour week from an estimated 8 million workers. Furthermore, Bush has recently announced his intention to completely dispense with time-and-a-half for all workers. The Bushites are also attempting to outlaw union recognition via card check. There is no doubt that Bush will use a second term to push through these and other extreme measures.
A broad anti-Bush coalition has arisen in the face of the imminent danger from the extreme right. In NYC teachers, firefighters and the police unions have coordinated their contract mobilization activities. Recently they have engaged in joint informational picketing around Madison Square Garden, the site of the RNC convention. The historic “Stop Bush” rally called by the NYCCLC is an indication of the broad labor unity on this question. Labor is coming together to stop Bush and to replace his extremist agenda with one that meets the needs and serves the interests of all Americans, rather than promoting the narrow special interests of a privileged few.