Sunday, August 14, 2011

Durham, N.C. Pickets Hit Austerity Budget

On the same day that Congress passed the so-called “deficit reduction” austerity bill, North Carolina residents were in the streets calling out the legislation for what it is: an attack on working people.

Members of local trade unions, activist groups and community members picketed outside the Veterans Affairs medical center in downtown Durham. Workers from the medical center also joined in.

“The VA center was chosen since both veterans’ benefits and public medical care in general are going to be cut under the new legislation,” one protester told Workers World. Drawing the attention of motorists and hospital foot traffic, the group chanted slogans such as “Fund people’s needs, not corporate greed” and “Congress, confess: You caused this mess!”

Speaking on behalf of the youth group Fight Imperialism, Stand Together (FIST), Eva Panjwani pointed out the injustice of the austerity bill. “They are cutting services that people like us depend on to survive. Why don’t the congresspeople responsible explain to our children why they won’t be getting that birthday present or explain to our elderly loved ones why they will now have to pay out of pocket for medication they need?”

Nearly one trillion dollars in cuts has been established immediately, while deciding on the additional $1.4 trillion in cuts has been delegated to an unelected committee of 12. Yolanda Carrington of the Bail Out the People Movement addressed the decision to put war spending over people’s needs. “They are saying there’s no money for health care or veterans’ benefits,” she said, “but we are fighting many wars around the globe, with the newest in Libya starting just a few months ago.”

Members of North Carolina Public Service Workers Union, United Electrical Workers union Local 150 and of American Federation of Government Employees Local 1738 were part of the demonstration. Essie Hogue, president of the AFGE local, spoke on the duplicity of the elected officials. “They aren’t doing the right thing. Congress is putting all the burden on poor folks and none of the burden on the richest folks.”

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