Community Groups and Unions Launch Strong Economy for All Coalition

Press Release: Strong Economy for All Coalition

Leaders of New York’s community groups and unions launched the Strong Economy for All Coalition Tuesday to press for policies to benefit working, middle-class and low income New Yorkers, including retaining the “Millionaires Tax,” job creation, fair taxation, better wages, emergency homeless services, effective government action and strong consumer protections in home foreclosures, financial services and healthcare.

“With shelters at the breaking point and emergency homeless services on the chopping block, this is not the time to be giving millionaires another tax break,” said Mary Brosnahan, Executive Director Coalition for the Homeless. “The billions that this giveaway to the rich will cost New York will mean even more cuts to the services that every working family depends on. That is not shared sacrifice.”

The group includes Coalition for the Homeless, Make the Road New York, New York Communities for Change, Citizen Action, Municipal Labor Committee, NYS AFL-CIO, SEIU32BJ, 1199SEIU, CWA, UFT and NYSUT.

“Working New Yorkers across the state are still feeling the deep impact of the recession yet Wall Street and the wealthiest New Yorkers have benefited from a rebound in the stock market financed by the federal taxpayer bailout,” said George Gresham, President of 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East. “Extending the millionaire’s tax makes fiscal sense by bringing in revenue and is the right thing to do. Unemployment remains high and the middle-class is facing layoffs and cuts to vital public services to balance the state budget. This is about shared sacrifice.”

The Strong Economy for All Coalition will fight to keep the “Millionaire’s Tax” in this year’s state budget to protect programs for low-income children and seniors, schools, police, firefighters and homeless services. The Coalition will continue work after the budget on a broad-ranging effort to rebuild the middle class and rebalance the New York economy.

Denis Hughes, President of the New York State AFL-CIO said, “It is imperative that we plan and implement a long term economic development strategy that invests in the future of our state. While creating good paying jobs would be a welcome first step, we should be focusing on providing working men and women with the opportunity for long term careers, that will provide a measure of economic stability and security for workers and their families.”

The coalition plans to continue the fight against income disparity by working to win better wages and benefits for low-income workers, stop record levels of bank foreclosures against New York’s families, push for legislation to hold Wall Street accountable for losses to pension funds due to fraud and reduce recordlevels of homelessness and poverty.

Karen Scharff, Executive Director of Citizen Action of New York said, “We can say goodbye to what’s left of New York’s middle class if devastating budget cuts are enacted. To bring New York’s economy back, we need good schools, good jobs and good public services, not tax breaks for the wealthiest New Yorkers. Citizen Action is proud to join this coalition to press for a state budget and economic program that protects kids and working families, not millionaires.”

Ana Maria Archila, Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York said “Everyone’s talking about the exceptionally rich fleeing the state, even though no one has left because of their tax burden over the past few years. Our leaders need to be thinking about the grave harm to our state when working, middle class New Yorkers leave, and they will certainly leave if we fail to invest in good public schools, our shared infrastructure and our vital public services.

Michael Mulgrew, President United Federation of Teachers, said, “New York is now the income disparity capital of the country, and the gap will continue to grow if the budget is balanced at the expense of working and middle class New Yorkers. The wealthy have not been asked to sacrifice at all and the last thing they need is another tax break.”

Schools and education are a key issue for Coalition members. Zakiyah Ansari, Organizer for the Alliance for Quality Education, said, “Five years ago when the Campaign for Fiscal Equity was heard at the highest court in NYS and it was ruled that our children had been unconstitutionally underfunded for years, there was a sense of hope and elation that finally our children would have a fighting chance. Fast forward to 2011, our schools are facing devastating cuts. These cuts would completely abandoned CFE and dash many of our hopes. Protecting Millionaires does not restore faith in Albany.”

Jack Ahern, President, New York City Central Labor Council said, “We must find a new balance in New York if we expect to one day be on stable financial ground again. We must focus on job creation — good jobs which reflect the dignity of New Yorkers. We need to focus on rebuilding the middle class, by boosting wages and increasing access to healthcare for all New Yorkers.”

Hector Figueroa, Secretary-Treasurer of 32BJ, said, “Balancing the budget on the backs of working people undermines the middle class and widens the dangerous income gap between the very rich and everyone else. It is incumbent on our state government to balance spending cuts with more revenue so that hard working New Yorkers are not left without jobs or jobs that don’t support their families.”

Chris Shelton, Vice President CWA District 1 said, “New York needs good jobs and a strong middle class, not tax cuts for the CEO of Goldman Sachs.”

Jean Sassine, a homeowner facing foreclosure in Jackson Heights, Queens who is working with New York Communities for Change to organize and assist other families facing foreclosure told his personal story at the launch and said, “I am excited about this coalition. The banks — JPMorganChase chief among them — created this crisis by exploiting and foreclosing on people like me. We need to fight them to get them to begin fixing the problems they created.”

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