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Struggling New York School Workers Get Knocked Hard in Budget War

8:41 am in Uncategorized by Michelle Chen

New York City workers rally against budget cuts. Photo courtesy of District Council 37

Cross-posted from In These Times.

When kids across New York City shuffle into their classrooms next week, they’ll discover that a few members of their school community won’t be attending, and their absence will be sorely felt.

Fresh casualties of the city’s budget wars, about 700 city school aides and other support personnel have been expelled. As of October 7, many schools will have to adjust to fewer hall monitors, parent coordinators, and other assistants who help administrators and teachers cope with stuffed classrooms, dwindling supply cabinets, and endless standardized tests.

At an Occupy Wall Street solidarity rally on Wednesday, Lillian Roberts, executive director of the prominent municipal union District Council 37, called the school workers’ plight a textbook example of New York’s economic injustices, from an anti-worker tax structure to the unabashed greed of the city’s financial sector:

Just this week, more than 700 low-paid DC 37 members, mainly workers of color at the NYC Dept. of Education, will lose their jobs while wealthy private contractors will continue receiving millions of dollars in payments from New York City and the [Department of Education (DOE)]. The ‘Occupy Wall Street’ protestors have said enough is enough, stop the destructive corporate greed. We couldn’t agree more. Read the rest of this entry →

While Wall Street Quakes, Greece’s Fire Still Burns Bright

8:06 am in Uncategorized by Michelle Chen

Police detain demonstrators and attack press photographers in Athens, Greece during a protest rally marking the 24-hour general strike on October 5, 2011. (Photo: LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Cross-posted from In These Times.

While we may be inspired to see a leaderless mass movement finally crystallizing in U.S. cities, the American occupations still can’t hold a candle to the fire raging across Greece.

This past week, demonstrators again unleashed their rage across the tiny Mediterranean republic, blocking government agencies and clashing with government thugs amid plumes of tear gas, with assorted spectacles like trying to burn a European Union flag in effigy. Wilder than the spontaneous encampments in New York, Boston and other cities, the Greek tempests of the past several months have been persistent and rancorous enough to actually shake up the trading floor and the halls of Eurozone-IMF officialdom, as the troika hover, anxious and vulture-like, over a smoldering pyre of sovereign debt.

The explosion in Greece (along with Spain) illustrate how common assumptions about the neoliberal consensus of the industrialized world can be overturned if people become desperate enough. Despite the draconian austerity policies, writes Times columnist Floyd Norris, virtually nothing could persuade the Greeks at this point to swallow more misery:

The tax collectors, of all people, have staged job actions because they fear being laid off. To say the least, there is no sign of a national spirit of sacrifice to save the country.

The message from Greece now may be summarized as, “I’m small. I’ve suffered. You can afford to rescue me. If you don’t, I can create chaos for all of you.”

They may be right.

Are there lessons for the Liberty Plaza protesters to learn from the Athenian class warriors? The Greece context is politically and culturally unique, but it does embody the principle of fierce solidarity. The Greek left is working to harness widespread bitterness into a united front against austerity, linking unions, the jobless young, professionals and laborers. Read the rest of this entry →