May Day rally planned in San Diego, we take a look at the message.
April 30, 2012 1:08 p.m.
Bill Freeman, President, San Diego Education Association
Michael Moody, with Activist San Diego
CAVANAUGH: San Diego unions and activists say tomorrow is a perfect day to stop working and start marching. And we'll find out why more than two dozen prominent San Diego business leaders are moving to the middle.
This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. It's Monday, April 30th. Here are the San Diego stories we're following in the KPBS newsroom. Our top story on Midday Edition, a large group of San Diego activist, union members and students are expected to usher in the month of May tomorrow with a may day rally in downtown San Diego. Organizers are calling for a general strike, no working, no school, no buying on May Day in protest of cuts to schools and social services in California. There remains to see how many people will heed that call to action. My guests will tell us why they think the rallies from San Diego City hall to Chicano park are both timely and necessary. My guests, Bill Freeman is president of the San Diego education association. Bill, welcome to the program.
FREEMAN: Thank you very much. I'm happy to be here.
CAVANAUGH: Michael Kitchen Moody is with us, an activist -- with activist San Diego. Michael, welcome to the show.
MOODY: Thank you, thank you very much.
CAVANAUGH: Now, Mike who is sponsoring San Diego's may day celebration?
MOODY: There are a couple organizations involved with the planning of it. The workers solidarity union, the occupy San Diego workers solidarity union, the teachers union, janitors union, occupy San Diego, activist San Diego, the list goes on with many different organizations that are pulling together efforts to make this day a success.
CAVANAUGH: Where is it taking place?
MOODY: Well, it's going to take place on Park Boulevard in front of the B building at City College downtown at 11:00 AM. We're going to meet there for a short rally, and festivities will kickoff from there. And there's other events happening at the Sherman heights farmer's market area where they just tore it down for the Walmart. There's going to be a rally there, another rally I think at San Marcos, and there's stuff going on in all the community colleges and all the campuses as well. There's a lot of stuff to do, and a lot of stuff to get involved with.
CAVANAUGH: On your website, there's a whole list of organizations participating. Lots of unions. Has this happened before? In other may day celebrations?
MOODY: Yes, in 2006, there were the huge mega-rallies that happened. Everybody organized and made it a huge event. May day has a long his of, you know, celebrating the workers' rights and exercising our rights and just letting the -- will I guess I'm going to say 1% know they need to be fair with the wages they pay, and also in their business practices.
CAVANAUGH: May day, especially for middle aged people still has connotations of being a communist worker's holiday. How do you go about changing that perception?
MOODY: Well, the big evaluate thing really is to look at it as all workers. Will everybody who works that doesn't make millions of dollars a year, you're pretty much involved with this, even if you don't know or not. Look at all the students that are coming out of college with gigantic amounts of credit card debt. Not just credit card debt, but student loan debt. It's over a trillion dollars in colleges alone. And that's more than the entire U.S.'s credit card debt, if you really look at it. So these kids, they graduate college, and then they -- what do they do? They go to work, and they're working just to pay off their college education for 30 years and never getting out of the debt. That's a huge part of it. And not only that, if you work a minimum wage job, and you have this freedom in America, but you only have enough energy to go to work and go home, and you don't have any free time or money to do anything else that fulfills your life, life is not just work, life is not just working for the smallest amount that they'll pay.
CAVANAUGH: It's my perception that may day was sort of -- the people who tried to reclaim may day in the United States , that started off with immigrant workers, Latino workers, with the large rallies that we saw several years ago to try to just say, we're here, we're working in America, and is this the day that we claim to show everybody what it would be like if we weren't working as we are in all of these jobs and all of these capacities. Is that where perhaps this new movement has taken off?
MOODY: Yeah, I believe that. They had that really cool documentary, day without a Mexican, and they had the fake filming at the actual mega-rallies you're speaking on right now. That reallies a lot of people who didn't know they could have a voice through this. If you didn't know that you are able to go and strike, you can actually check out the NLRA's website, they'll tell you if your job covers you, and you have the legal right to come out and strike if it is a workers' rights issue, and that's what may day is about.
CAVANAUGH: Let me go to you, bill Freeman. Why is the teachers' union taking part in this?
FREEMAN: Well, are the teachers' union is taking part in this because of the students, and to save public education because this is not something that's unique to San Diego. This is happening around the state, it's happening around this nation. There are -- there's a a group of elitists in this state that is choking the financial life out of public education and pushing education toward privatization. There's no doubt about that. And this is part of it. It's a movement, and it's drastically hurting our kids. It's warehousing kids in classrooms, it's taking away their nurses, their counselors, it's making our school sites an unsafe place. And if the educators and parents and community leaders cannot come together and stop this, it will continue because our elected officials will not stop it.
CAVANAUGH: Now, Bill, this latest round of layoffs voted on at the San Diego unified school district, include about 1,600 teachers who got notified that may potentially be laid off, those pink slips that go out in March. And last week, almost 1000 school workers, people who work in libraries and custodians, and clerical. What is your take on how San Diegans are reacting to the possibility of more cuts like this at San Diego unified?
FREEMAN: Well, I -- as a parent, it's never good to see that because all parents know that if they cult these educators, the kids have to be taught by someone. So what happens is that the classrooms are stacked with kids. And the most neediest kids are often the kids that do not get the attention that they need. They don't get the healthcare because they've cut nurses. They don't get the counseling because they cut counselors. And it just has to stop. It has to stop. And I think we just need to join together with the community and community leaders and parents and say enough is is enough. That's the only way that we're going to stop this because it doesn't have to be.
CAVANAUGH: Now, the San Diego unified School Board is urging the teachers' union to renegotiate an upcoming salary raise in order to save money and teachers' jobs. And I'm wondering, are you in talks with the district about opening those negotiations?
FREEMAN: No, we're not in talks with -- we do communicate with the district. We do talk to them. We're not in talks with them on opening up negotiations. I've said this time and time again, and I'll say it again, I know of 107 teachers now that have lost their homes because of the pay cut that we took the last time. I think that it's just unfenobviously to think that someone will ask a person to give more money out of their pocket when they don't know whether they need that or not. I don't think any other profession is asked to do that. The district doesn't know what they need. They're budgeting in the dark because of this directive by the county. Budgeting three years out. We don't even have the budget for next year yet. We don't even have the may revision. That's absurd. And who is losing in this? And this is what really bothers me the most. The teachers are losing, yes. The but the people that are really losing in this are the kids in their classrooms. As well as the parents of those kids. That's who's losing in this. This is not about money. We can find money to do anything that we want to do in this great nation of ours. This is about priorities. And education is and has not been a priority in this country since they introduced no child left behind. And I truly believe this is all part of an elaborate plan to eliminate public education and privatize it.
CAVANAUGH: Now, I'm assuming that the teachers' union is behind the governor's tax initiative that would bring more money into education. Were you wholeheartedly behind that? Do you think that it's enough or that it will not fix what the problems are in public schools in California?
FREEMAN: Well, I don't think it's enough. We are behind it, yes. Wee wholeheartedly behind it. I don't think it's enough. I think it's a start. I think it's a good start. And it could possibly be enough if they would stop taking money out of public education to do other things, if the government would stop doing that. People often talk about the lottery money, well, what did that do? Well, that didn't do any good when you take an equal amount out that goes in. You have the same pot. So the lottery money isn't helping public education. And indeed money that was -- went to public education has been pulled out, even on top of the lottery moneys. So yes, the initiative is a start, but it's not enough. Enough will be that this nation will say education is a priority and we're going to make sure that it is adequately funded. And I don't recall a time that that has happened.
CAVANAUGH: Now, how do you see participating in this March tomorrow, this may day march as -- how do you equate that with helping the cause of education?
FREEMAN: Well, I do want to clarify two things. One, our march starts at 3:30 PM over at Roosevelt and goes to the ad center. And many individuals will be participating in the other marches as well. But that's bringing parents, communities, and community leaders together to highlight the importance of saving public education, to address and highlight the overcrowded classrooms, to address and highlight the elimination of the early childhood program, the inadequate health services for our kids. , the elimination of nurse, counselors, and the literally tearing apart of our schools and communities. And so it's important that we all come together. This is not an educator's fight. This is not a fight just for educators. This is a fight for the City of San Diego, for the state of California. And indeed this nation.
CAVANAUGH: Michael Moody, the may day rally as we heard, are the teachers' union is going to be a large part of many of those rallies and marches. What other cuts is this rally aimed against?
MOODY: Well, what I know mostly is the student stuff
MOODY: Organize a lot of students. Of so what's happening is that the actual fees for community colleges are being increased. And there was an actual master plan in the 1970s that made community colleges, free, right? Then they started implementing these fees. Now the fees have actually tripled for CSU and UC students and quadrupled for community colleges to compensate for the loss of funds coming in. So it's just -- it's just ridiculous. So those are cuts that we're attacking on that, teachers' pay cuts, the part-time workers, that are teachers who are not protected right now, their jobs are being cut. Full-time teachers are not being that much affected in the college sector, but these are the type of things we're talking about.
CAVANAUGH: Well, it's probably -- I'm going to assume, probably there are a lot of people who will not skip school or skip work or stop shopping tomorrow. I'm wondering, how do you gauge if your may day rally is successful?
MOODY: Well, I think a lot of people haven't said they're going yet, and they're planning to go for reasons that they're afraid of retaliation. Of the workers right center at city college is the first destination. They'll be helping people that have problems with retaliation from bosses. If you go to the occupy San Diego Facebook page, you're going to get a lot of different resources for people who are afraid to come out and don't know their rights. So I think basically our advocacy, the outreach to people that day is going to spiral into helping people organize more. So we'll be meeting each other, seeing each other's faces, and on May†2nd, the CSU students have six different campuses in California are going to do a hunger strike. They have some demands, one of them most importantly being increase free speech areas to all campuses, and there's a couple more, if you look on the occupy San Diego page you can get more information on the hunger strike.
CAVANAUGH: Do you have a target number of people that you're expecting tomorrow? Or hoping for?
MOODY: Well, I'd love to see hundreds of thousands of people fill the streets, and really let big businesses see the effects of no one going to work, and no one buying anything. This is how we systematically shock the system to reverse what's happened to us by the corporate force. It's affecting every facet of our lives. So if we affect every facet of industry, and let them see oh, we're not making as much money as we did yesterday, this is affecting our bottom line, and oh, the shareholders are talking about that we're not keeping this business profitable. That's how we affect the change. Literally, a corporation is like a virus. They'll do anything to survive. If we make it so that being about workers and being about a greener economy is what we want, being about sustainable futures is what we want, they'll switch up their program to keep alive and maintain their strangle hold. If we can look at it that way.
CAVANAUGH: We have more info on all the rallies that make up tomorrow's may day on San Diego on KPBS.org. Thank you both very much.
MOODY: Thank you guys, and free fish from the San Diego county jail. He didn't do anything wrong.
FREEMAN: Thank you.