Thousands Rally In Trenton In Solidarity With Wisconsin Workers
Pro-labor Crowd Denounces Christie Agenda and Attacks On Middle Class
[Update 2/27/11: I noticed that NJ Democrats (other than Frank Pallone) were notably nowhere to be seen at the rally. Did I miss them? Senate Majority Leader Barbara Buono has a great Op-Ed. But here’s’ where “Democratic”Â Senate President Sweeney was:Â Â NJ Senate President Sweeney presents his own reformsÂ - Big Problem.]
Thousands of labor supporters rallied today in front of theÂ Statehouse in a show of solidarity with Wisconsin labor unions and toÂ oppose attacks on public sector employees and labor rights. Threats of heavy rain likely dampened turnout.
After a warmup singing Woodie Guthrie’s classic “This Land Is Your land” and other labor songs, the crowded roared as a series of rousing speakersÂ denouncedÂ Republican policies thatÂ cut taxes for corporations and the rich, while slashing social programs and destroying the middle class.
While voicing support for Wisconsin labor unions,Â the crowd sent a message to Governor Christie and the Legislature thatÂ the labor movement was unified, building coalitions with other progressives, Â and ready toÂ fight to protect hard won middleÂ classs lifestyles.
Governor ChristieÂ has refused to focus on reversing growingÂ inequality and the struggles of working people. He ignoresÂ the Wall Street deregulation and corporate greed that caused the recession.
Instead, attempting to define a “new normal”, Christie puts the pedal to the metal on exactly the policies that have caused the problem: even more aggressive blindÂ pursuit ofÂ tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy,Â deregulation, privatization, and attacks on public employees.Â A protestor’s sign summed up the process (apologies for the poor resolution):
“New Normal:Unions get busted: corporations get deregulated: Middle class gets crushed: Rich Get richer”
Adding insult to injury, Christie has joinedÂ with Democratic Senate President Sweeney in what looks like a conscious effortÂ to divide public and private unions,Â by exploiting legitimateÂ anger over high unemployement, stagnant wages, record home foreclosures and bankruptcies,Â andÂ a deep insecurity in what looks like anÂ increasingly bleak future for people who work for a living.
For thirty years now, corporations have receivedÂ huge tax cuts and subsidies, while they enjoyed record profits from off shoring jobs, deindustrializing,Â slashing workers’ wages and benefits, in pursuit ofÂ a cost cutting, short term profit maximizing, race to the bottom strategy (some call it “financialization”).
Christie now wants to import that corporate disaster into theÂ public sector.
Christie appeals to resentment – pitting worker against worker, private union versus public unionÂ - and employsÂ divide and conquer and blame the victim tactics, a view summed up by Sweeney himself inÂ a New York Times magazine interview:
â€œMy politics are union politics,â€ Sweeney, the Senate president, assured me when I visited him in his State House office. He reminded me that he is not only the stateâ€™s top elected Democrat, but also a union ironworker. And yet, he said, â€œwhat I think that public-sector employees have to do is look at whatâ€™s going on around them, look at all the pain around them, and understand that no one hates them, but they want them to sacrifice like everyone else. Itâ€™s that simple.â€
Well, it’s not that simple Mr. Sweeney. As a colleague wrote in a recent email:
In NJ, we saw businesses and their interests use the recession as an excuse to drastically reduce environmental protection and privatize our jobs underÂ the guise of spurring the economy (as if NJ DEP caused the recession in NJ!), so I’m not surprised. Â It’s full-scale class warfare if you ask me. Today, it’s public workers in WI, tomorrow it will be retirees everywhere. Next we will be told that there’s no money for social security but we can’t raise taxes on the wealthy making over $200K per year because that isn’t fair. Â But we can take away pensions, social security, medicare orÂ unemployment compensation that were promised. Â That is totally fair!
Here are some more photos – I was proud to stand with this diverse crowd of everyday people!: