By Duane Campbell
Thursday, Nov 17, thousands of faculty members made history by participating in the first-ever strike of the California State University system.
The message to the Chancellor was loud and clear from six in the morning until dark: “If you don’t start making decisions based on what is right for the 99% this system serves – instead of the 1% of executives and upper managers running the system -- these actions will continue.”
At CSU Dominguez Hills in Southern California, 2,000 people over the course of the day picketed the ten gates surrounding the campus.
At CSU East Bay in Northern California, according to published reports, 93% of classes were canceled for the day. Traffic was backed up for over a mile and a half into the city of Hayward. At noon, police were forced to cordon off the main entrance on Carlos Bee Blvd, effectively closing campus for the rest of the day.
DSA Honorary Chair Cornel West participated in the support rally.
“This week, we sent the Chancellor a powerful message,” said CFA President Lillian Taiz, a professor of History at CSU Los Angeles.
Taiz continued, “People are fed up with his ‘management first’ priorities. The CSU community is tired of seeing the Chancellor give huge raises to executives while student fees are hiked, faculty pay is stagnant, class sizes keep growing, and class offerings and faculty jobs are eliminated.
“Huge numbers of people came out to support the faculty this week – students, community members, staff, supporters from other unions, political leaders, and parents.
“Chancellor Reed is out of touch with the needs of the people in the trenches. Instead, he focuses obsessively on the compensation and perks of his presidents and his managers. The time has come for the Chancellor to prioritize the future of the people of California.
DSA Honorary Chair Cornel West addressed the strikers and East Bay and joined the picket line.
State and local governments provide the most basic services to our populace – public education, police and fire, transportation, parks, libraries and basic infrastructure, not to mention funding half the costs of unemployment insurance and Medicaid. Yet with state and local governments facing a recession-induced budget shortage of close to $200 billion ( out of annual expenditures of $1.7 trillion dollars), the standard conservative and moderate Democratic solution is to slash essential services. Most localities will witness significant layoffs of police and fire personnel and close to 200,000 of the nation’s 3.4 million K-12 teachers received pink slips by September 2011.
This fiscal crisis of the states did not fall from the sky; it resulted from the Great Recession brought on by unregulated financial speculation.
Absent renewed federal aid to states and localities, painful recessionary slashing of basic human services will accelerate in 2012. Increased class sizes, withdrawal of Medicaid services, and cuts in basic uniform services have devastated the lives of ordinary working people and will send the economy into a further recessionary downturn.
It is clear that democratic policies will not be granted from on-high by politicians funded by corporate interests. They will only come through democratic protest such as strikes and Occupy Wall Street and mobilization that forces elected officials to serve the people and not powerful private interests. That’s why Democratic Socialists of America will be working with people across the nation to mobilize against state and local cuts in basic human services and in favor of fair tax policies and sane national priorities that put human needs ahead of empire and corporate greed.