The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 75/No. 20      May 23, 2011

Pennsylvania rally opposes
state government austerity
HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania—Thousands of workers rallied at the capitol here May 3 to protest budget cuts proposed by Gov. Thomas Corbett that would slash education, state services for the elderly and disabled, and wages and benefits of public workers.

Called a “rally for a responsible budget,” the action drew miners from western Pennsylvania, teachers, health-care workers, steelworkers, members of the NAACP, and unionists from every corner of the state.

The plan is to cut more than $1 billion from public education by eliminating 3,000 jobs; cutting spending on textbooks and programs such as language, sports, music, and arts; increasing class sizes; and eliminating full-time kindergarten attended by 88,000 children last year. The plan includes $230 million in cuts to 14 state-funded colleges, resulting in even higher tuition rates.

Also on the chopping block is emergency home mortgage assistance.

Many at the demonstration were attracted to the Militant. Twenty-four participants signed up for subscriptions and nearly 100 bought a copy of the paper.

Jeff Marsh, who came as part of a contingent of miners from western Pennsylvania, said he had just renewed his subscription for a year and helped sell the paper to fellow miners.

While the rally was taking place, Corbett spoke at a meeting of the Harrisburg Regional Chamber of Commerce. Claiming to be dismayed at the failure of public education, the governor advocates vouchers to divert state funds to private and religious schools.

Later in the day he spoke before the National Federation of Independent Business where he said the cuts will encourage “private-sector growth.”

The Harrisburg Patriot-News called the rally “one of the largest gatherings in a decade.” The paper added that it was “angrier” than past protests.

The state AFL-CIO, the central organizer of the rally, focused on calling for “shared sacrifice” between employers and workers. But many workers were interested in a fighting perspective and a class explanation for the propertied rulers’ attempts to foist the crisis of their capitalist economic system on the backs of working people.

Workers at the rally from the Hershey chocolate plant 20 miles east of here said that they are facing continuing attacks from the candy giant. The company has pushed through wage and benefit concessions while stepping up productivity and cutting jobs. One worker bought two Militant subscriptions, one for herself and one for the union local hall.

The same day as the Harrisburg rally, more than 200 people crowded into a hearing at South Philadelphia High School to discuss cuts proposed for city schools—cuts school board spokespeople say are necessary because the state is slashing education funds.
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