Monday, August 16, 2010

March Demands "Jobs for All!"

By LeiLani Dowell
New York
Published Aug 15, 2010 11:07 PM

An energetic protest demanding jobs in Harlem, N.Y., and beyond hit several targets on Aug. 6. Community leaders and activists began their action at North General Hospital — where workers, represented by Service Employees Local 1199, were given only four days’ notice that the entire hospital would be shut down. Describing the closing of the hospital as an attack on the whole community, union members declared their struggle to be not just a fight for jobs, but also a fight to preserve affordable health care in Harlem.

Bullhorns in hand, the protesters then marched down 125th Street — a main thoroughfare of Harlem — attracting the attention and support of the shoppers and street vendors on the sidewalks. They handed out flyers announcing an Oct. 2 march for jobs in Washington, D.C., and inviting everyone to join the Bail Out the People Movement’s Jobs for All Campaign.

The march proceeded to a so-called “Career Center” on 125th. Protesters explained that many welfare offices were being replaced with this type of center, which provides career counseling and some job training, but doesn’t actually provide jobs. Standing in Harlem — an area with staggering levels of unemployment, especially amongst Black and Latino/a youth — activists demanded a real jobs program on the scope of the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s.

Lastly, rally participants marched another couple of blocks along 125th Street to the other “career” option offered to youth of color by the government. Forming a line in front of the Armed Forces Recruiting Center, activists denounced the continued attempts to deceive youth with false promises into fighting imperialist wars. Speakers at the closing rally noted that the money used to wage war could instead be used to provide jobs and other social services.

Participating in the entire day’s activities were two candidates of the newly formed Freedom Party, City Councilperson Charles Barron and attorney Ramon Jimenez. The two are running for New York state governor and attorney general, respectively, on a ticket challenging the Democratic Party’s all-white slate of candidates. (See, July 16)

Jimenez, who participated in the successful struggle to keep Metropolitan Hospital in Manhattan, told of the lessons he learned: “You can’t get tired; you can’t get discouraged. Next year they’re forecasting a $7 billion deficit — we have to get ready for the storm.”

Representatives of Picture the Homeless; the International Action Center; the Harlem Tenants Council; and the youth group Fight Imperialism, Stand Together attended and spoke at the action as well.

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