Dr. Barbara Bowen leads a teach-in at Bloombergville, June 26, 2011
By John Tarleton
PSC President Barbara Bowen became the latest CUNY faculty member to conduct a teach-in at “Bloombergville University” Sunday evening, June 26th, when she led a discussion on the role of labor unions and public education during a time of imposed austerity.
Bloombergville is a two-week old protest encampment set up across the street from City Hall to dramatize opposition to Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposed cuts to vital programs and services across the city. About 30 people participated in the discussion which included a question-and-answer session following Bowen’s talk.
In her presentation, Bowen noted that labor unions and public education have lifted more people out of poverty that any other institutions in American society. This, she said, is a major reason these two institutions are being targeted at a time when the US is experiencing an enormous transfer of wealth from poor and working class people to the super rich. Bowen also emphasized that these attacks disproportionately affect women who make up the majority of teachers and public sector union members.
With 14.7 million members, unions have the potential to play a large role in building resistance to austerity, Bowen said, but first they will need to break with the idea that their greatest strength lies in deal-making, rather than organizing a mass movement.
Meanwhile, new forms of protest that reclaim public space like Bloombergville are important, she said.
“Don’t underestimate the power of what you are learning—alternatives to the dominate discourse and analysis,” she said.
Previous teach-in leaders include Distinguished Professor Frances Fox Piven (GC), Professor Mimi Abramovitz (Hunter) and Professor Immanuel Ness (Brooklyn). Stanley Aronowitz, a distinguished professor of sociology and urban education at the Graduate Center, will lead today’s teach-in at 6pm. Bloombergville is located at the corner of Broadway and Park Place.