Bill de Blasio will not take office as mayor of New York City until January 1. But a coalition of labor, community and Occupy groups is not waiting for the inauguration to press for the progressive change that swept de Blasio into office.
Organizing under the slogan, “A New York for the 99%,” the coalition is planning a “Wall Street Week of Action” for the first week of December that will culminate in a rally on December 5. Organizers say the “Towards Victory” mass gathering will be a public celebration of common struggles.
Shared concerns include defending public education, low-wage worker organizing, fighting against home foreclosures, and action against student debt.
Leading groups in the “New Day New York” coalition include progressive unions such as the PSC, TWU Local 100, the UFT, the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) and community-based organizations like Make the Road New York, New York Communities for Change (NYCC), the Coalition for Educational Justice, New York Students Rising, and Strong Economy for All. Some of the core organizers of Occupy Wall Street are also involved.
“There has to be movement in the streets to capitalize on the moment, so that it’s not only a moment,” said Jonathan Westin, executive director of NYCC, a group that has been involved in fast-food worker organizing and opposing home foreclosures.
Westin spoke at a coalition meeting held at the PSC Union Hall on October 30. Participants discussed the wide array of campaigns they are currently working on and the kinds of actions they have in the planned. A major topic was how groups can unite their forces instead of solely working in their single-issue “silos.”
“The forces we are up against are mammoth in their wealth and influence,” said PSC Treasurer Mike Fabricant. “It will require the full, united effort of working people for us to set a new direction that invests in workers through higher wages and provides the services they need like education and health care.”
Organizers are considering a wide variety of activities, including conferences, roving street protests, training workshops and direct action, all culminating in a large protest on December 5. Each day may also have a theme, such as housing, health care, or public education from pre-K to college.
Some younger organizers emphasized the importance of finding new and imaginative ways to express dissent. “Get the artists involved as soon as possible,” said an organizer from Beautiful Trouble, an organizing project that promotes creative activism.
Many of the groups involved in New Day New York have been involved in economic justice mobilizations in the city over the past several years, including the May 12 Coalition, which organized the mass protest of more than 10,000 people in the spring of 2011, that set the stage for Occupy Wall Street.
Springboard to 2014
Organizers are looking for the Wall Street Week of Action to provide a springboard into 2014 as they push a progressive legislative agenda in City Hall and Albany, escalate low-wage worker organizing campaigns and move forward with large private and public sector union negotiations.
For Jim Perlstein, co-chair of the PSC Solidarity Committee and a participant in the New Day New York coalition, this kind of proactive organizing makes perfect sense.
“The fact that we elected a good guy as mayor, that’s not good enough,” Perlstein said. “What the mayor and the City Council’s Progressive Caucus accomplish will depend to a significant degree on mass pressure.”