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Vol. 73/No. 9      March 9, 2009

SWP mayoral candidate:
‘Oppose New York cuts’
NEW YORK—”I’m opposed to the layoffs and tax increases,” said Dan Fein, the Socialist Workers candidate for mayor of this city, speaking at a Militant Labor Forum February 20.

“Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the City Council claim there’s no money and that the budget has to be ‘balanced,’” Fein said.

“This city pays out more than $3.7 billion in interest every year to the city’s billionaire bondholders. There’s plenty of money, but it’s going to the wealthy capitalist rulers while working people are being forced to shoulder the brunt of their crisis. Stop paying the bondholders and put working people to work!”

Bloomberg recently announced plans to solve a $4 billion “budget crisis” with another round of layoffs and demands for substantial concessions from city workers in pension and health-care benefits. The city is also planning to increase the sales tax to 8.75 percent, eliminate the sales tax exemption on clothes, and impose a five-cent tax on plastic grocery bags.

Among the 23,000 layoffs of city workers the mayor has proposed are 14,000 teachers. These plans are on hold pending the release of federal “stimulus” funds.

The mayor projects $1 billion in cuts. These are in addition to $2 billion cut over the last two years.

Bloomberg is now demanding that city workers start paying 10 percent toward health-care coverage and make contributions to pension plans. He also wants to increase the retirement age. The mayor said that nearly all private-sector workers have already been forced to accept such concessions. Upping the retirement age and getting workers to contribute to pension plans, he added, are necessary because “people [are] living longer.”

New York, like many cities in the United States, Fein explained, operates on a deficit basis: it does not raise enough funds through taxes and state and federal revenue to cover its expenses. That shortfall is made up through issuing bonds—similar to taking out a loan.

“When a municipal government decides to reduce the deficit,” Fein said, “bondholders are always guaranteed their payments above anyone else, while city employees and social services are put on the chopping block to meet the ‘crisis’ and balance the books.”

Fein said that to confront the attacks of the Democrats and Republicans in City Hall, “we need a fighting labor movement that starts with the needs of the working class, not the needs of the bondholders.”

Fein said a campaign supporter had just shown him a statement presented by a boss to garment workers at a shop in Brooklyn. Fein read from the statement, which announced that the plant would shut down for a week to save on wages and benefits paid to workers and that the boss planned further layoffs.

“If we take 10 percent of the weeks on unemployment in the next year,” the statement said, “employees will maintain their health care while losing only 5 percent of their wages. This would save 15 jobs!”

“We must also operate more efficiently,” the boss lectured. “Many people waste as much as 20 minutes every day, either not starting work on time or stopping early.”

“Who’s the ‘we’?” Fein asked. “We’re not all in the same boat. Garment and other workers are seeing our paychecks cut while the bosses try to squeeze more work out of us, using the threat of even deeper layoffs to get us to accept their demands.

“The socialist campaign says shorten the workweek with no cut in pay to spread the available work. Put millions to work at union-scale wages through a massive program to build and repair homes, schools, hospitals, roads, and bridges.”
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