Rally for a Better Commonwealth draws activists from around the state
A crowd of a few hundred people converged on Copley Square to 'Rally for a Better Commonwealth' on Saturday, May 14.
The rally, which took place at the close of the MTA Annual Meeting of Delegates, attracted educators, workers, union and community leaders and supporters from across the state who gathered at Copley Square to call for a renewed investment in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. That reinvestment, MTA President Paul Toner and others told the crowd, needs to include more revenues to protect services that are vital to the long-term health of children, seniors, our communities and our economy.
"Here’s how bad it has gotten," Toner said. "Today, the richest 1 percent of Americans receive a quarter of all income and have 40 percent of all the wealth. In fact, they have as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent of Americans combined. This is a bigger concentration of wealth at the top than in any other modern industrialized country. It is also the biggest gap the U.S. has seen since 1929. You don’t need to be a history major to know what happened in 1929!
"And the situation is getting worse. As you know, Wall Street and the bankers caused our recent economic crisis. They were bailed out by us, the taxpayers. Instead of being humble and contrite about all the damage they have done, they are brashly showering bonuses on themselves like there is no tomorrow.
"The picture looks bleak, but we do have some powerful tools on our side. We have the facts. We have fairness. We have justice. And we have people – 107,000 in the MTA alone, and millions of working men and women in our state and country who make up the bottom 90 percent."
Toner encouraged rally participants to start educating people about An Act to Invest in Our Communities – a bill to increase the income tax and also increase the personal exemption to reduce the impact on low- and moderate-income families. The legislation would also increase the state taxes on capital gains and dividends – the lion’s share of which are paid by those who are wealthy enough to pay a bit more to support the common good and play their part in creating a better Commonwealth, he added.
[Listen to audio clip of MTA Chorus singing "We Shall Not Be Moved," followed a portion of Toner's remarks.]
Greater Boston Labor Council President Rich Rogers offered his prescription for "a better Commonwealth, which included protecting collective bargaining rights for public sector workers and restoring them for private sector workers, fighting for universal health care, and designing a more equitable tax system.
"We don't have a spending problem, but a revenue problem," he added. "Corporations and the rich in this nation and our Commonwealth need to start paying their share."
MTA Education Support Professional of the Year Jean Fay demanded that working people by heard. [Listen to Fay's remarks.]
"I'm from Amherst, where only the 'h' is silent, and believe me, I've got something to say," said Fay. "I am a kindergarten paraprofessional working in a Massachusetts public school. After 13 years of dedicated service, I still make less than $17,000 a year. And yet, there are some people who say I am the problem, that we are the problem.
"To the health care CEO getting a million dollar severance check, to the corporations paying zero taxes, to the bank getting bailed out with taxpayers' dollars -- I am not the problem. We are not the problem," said Fay, earning cheers from the crowd.
"It is important to remember that all our voices are important and need to be heard. Never forget that the vote of someone who earns less than $20,000 a year is just as meaningful and just as powerful as the vote of a CEO who makes millions," she added.
Joe LeBlanc, president of the Massachusetts Community College Council, called for a reinvestment in the state's public higher education institutions.
The repeated cuts to public higher ed, LeBlanc said, "undermine our present and future economic growth and cut at our heart and soul."
Massachusetts Jobs with Justice Organizing Director Jennifer Doe called on the crowd to take action and help spread the word about the need for increased revenues.
The rally was co-sponsored by the Boston Teachers Union, Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts, Greater Boston Labor Council, Jobs with Justice and the MTA.
More Audio Clips: http://audioboo.fm/massteacher
More Photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mtacommunications
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