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CUNY faculty and staff and community supporters mounted a peaceful, non-violent direct action in the Capitol on Wednesday, March 23, to stop the passage of a state budget that puts interests of corporations and the super-rich above the needs of CUNY students and millions of ordinary New Yorkers. Participants’ statement is below.
WHY WE ARE IN ALBANY TODAY
March 23, 2011: New York is at a turning point—and Albany is about to take us in the wrong direction. Governor Cuomo’s austerity budget will not lead to economic recovery. His plan to slash funding for public higher education, schools and public services for low- and middle-income New Yorkers while delivering a hefty tax break to the highest earners will not fix our state’s economy; it will lead only to increased poverty, blocked opportunity, and a further shift of wealth and power away from working New Yorkers. We are here to demand an alternative.
The Professional Staff Congress is the academic labor union at The City University of New York. We teach more than 260,000 students. As faculty and staff at CUNY, we have seen first-hand the effect of repeated budget cuts on our students’ chances for a better life. CUNY has been hollowed out by lack of funds. At a time of record enrollments, the governor proposes to cut CUNY’s state funding by 10%, and the legislative budgets contain only partial restorations. Without access to CUNY, a whole generation of New Yorkers will lose opportunity.
We and our partners are taking a stand because we believe in democratic higher education and the need for fair taxation to fund it. We refuse to stand by while the budget is balanced on the backs of children, the poor and people of color. There is money in New York for CUNY. There is money for schools, colleges, healthcare and social services. It’s in the hands of the richest 1% of New York taxpayers—they receive 35% of all income in the state. Hedge-fund managers, CEOs and real estate tycoons can afford to continue to pay a personal income tax surcharge; the banking and financial services industry is once again making record profits; real estate interests apparently have millions to spend on PR and lobbying campaigns to weaken rent control and undermine teachers’ contract rights. New York can get by without the Committee to “Save” New York, but we can’t survive and prosper without good education, healthcare, affordable housing and social support.
Budgets are about political choices. New York is in danger of passing a budget that chooses to harm the poor, the elderly and the young in order to increase the wealth and power of the rich. New York already has the highest income inequality in the country—this year’s budget is poised to make the inequality even greater by putting the interests of corporations and the wealthy above the needs of CUNY students and millions of ordinary New Yorkers.
Fairness, equality, hard work and an opportunity for a better life for all New Yorkers are the bedrock values on which the City University was founded. As CUNY faculty and staff, we have lobbied, organized, written and rallied in support of these principles, but apparently our voices have not been heard. Faced with such injustice, many of us are willing to risk arrest to demand that justice be done. We are taking peaceful, non-violent direct action to stop an austerity budget from passing. We invite all New Yorkers to stand with us.
Report on the protest
Letter from PSC President Barbara Bowen
Flyer for 3/23 direct-action budget protest