STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — April 17, 2012. On Tax Day 2012 over 100 members of several New York City unions attended a demonstration outside Staten Island’s main post office — not to protest against paying taxes but to demand that corporations start paying their share.
Steve Lawton , business agent for the Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 1102, mc’d the rally.
Lawton introduced bus drivers from the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), Local 726, Verizon workers from CWA Local 1102, postal letter carriers from Staten Island and the Bronx — National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) Branches 99 and 36 respectively — post office clerks from the American Postal Workers Union (APWU), mail sorters from the National Postal Mail Handlers Union (NPMHU), a teacher from the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), and members of the Middle Class Action Project (MCAP), a community organization.
“We’re a group of unions and community organizations that feel that tax day is a very important day, it’s a day of action for workers. We came out here to protest cuts to our community. We came out here to protest the constant attack on workers. We came out here to protest the fleecing of the taxpayer by the one percent and greedy corporations,” Lawton said.
Paul Alexander, of NALC Branch 99 (Staten Island), described the role letter carriers play in safeguarding the communities they serve.
Alexander said that letter carriers report robberies, fires and other events to the police, providing some security to the community. Ending six day mail delivery would deprive the community of more than just mail, he said.
“When we deliver in the neighborhood we are the guardians of that neighborhood,” said Alexander. “We’re part of the community and we hope to stay that way. With your help we will.”
Alexander’s post office, the Staten Island GPO, is slated for closure. He urged attendees to call on their elected officials to save the post office and thanked the crowd for turning out.
“We hope by your presence we’ll be able to make some kind of an impact on the politicians who naturally control the situation,” said Alexander.
George Botts, vice president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 726, called for unity — urging his “cousins” in other unions to come together to save collective bargaining.
“What happened in Wisconsin is happening around the country now and it’s happening here on Staten Island,” Botts said, referring to Wisconsin governor Scott Walker’s attempt to strip public sector workers of their collective bargaining rights.
“You need to go back to your place of work and tell your union brothers and sisters that they all need to be out here with us,” said Botts.
“It’s great to see all you brothers and sisters out here because when it comes down to it we’re one big union family…we’re one big union nowadays and it’s the only way we’re going to survive the future,” he said.
CWA Local 1102 president Ed Luster gave a fiery speech calling for “one big union” to resist corporate attempts to cut benefits, eliminate collective bargaining — and avoid paying taxes.
“When a corporation such as Verizon doesn’t pay its fair share in taxes that trickles down to post offices closing and public employees having to take cuts unnecessarily,” said Luster.
“We’re standing in front of a post office that they want to close because they don’t want to pay their share. We’re standing here with our bus drivers, our fellow brothers and sisters from the buses. They say well the City doesn’t have the money — if the companies would pay their share everybody would have their money and we’d all be living better,” he said.
Charlie Twist, a NALC shop steward from The Bronx, demanded that a closed facility in his borough be reopened.
Twist said that mail has been delayed since the closure of the 149th Street and Grand Concourse processing center in November. Twist sees this as part of a long range plan to privatize the post office.
“We’re doing our job but they want to sell off the post office to Wall Street and we want to put a stop to that,” Twist said.
Teri Caliari, a teacher, activist, and United Federation of Teachers (UFT) member, told the crowd that teachers and Verizon workers have something in common.
“As you know teachers also don’t have a contract,” Caliari said.
Caliari said that by taking advantage of “loopholes, tax breaks, and accounting tricks,” GE, Boeing, and Verizon all got money back from the government, none paid taxes.
“When the wealthy and corporations do not pay their taxes, we, the middle class, have to pay more or watch our vital services disappear. This is not the American way, this is not the American dream,” Caliari said.
John Kubinsky of the Middle Class Action Project, a community group, said that Verizon and other corporations slashing wages, cutting benefits, and outsourcing jobs is an assault on the middle class.
“It’s not just Verizon people who are unhappy that they don’t have a fair contract, we’re not happy,” Kubinsky said.
His 10-year-old daughter, holding a sign that read, “Support postal workers,” nodded in agreement.
“Every parents’ dream is to for their child to do better, to have more than they had. For the first time since the Depression her [ pointing to his daughter ] generation isn’t going to be able to say that.”
While the trade unions and community organizations on Staten Island were rallying, their counterparts on the other side of New York harbor were also protesting. The War Resisters League, The Granny Peace Brigade, The Rude Mechanical Orchestra and even Billionaires for the One Percent were all on hand to mark the passage of another tax day. The WRL and friends carried signs that read: “End the wars, then tax the rich…”