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Union Workers March For Economic Equality
New York 1
Bobby Cuza

December 1, 2011
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A sea of union workers, including some from the United Federation of Teachers and District Council 37, marched down Broadway Thursday to protest what they call an overall lack of economic opportunity. NY1's Bobby Cuza filed the following report.

Broadway was transformed into a sea of union workers Thursday. They weren’t protesting a particular contract issue, but rather what they say is an overall lack of economic opportunity.

"All of us are out here to collectively say that enough is enough. It's time that government and corporate America address issues which are going to lead to a broad-based economic prosperity and address the fundamental problem that we see today, which is the lack of jobs," said Vincent Alvarez of the New York City Central Labor Council.

For Cliftonia Johnson, lack of jobs is not an abstract concept. She was recently laid off from her job as a community associate at a Manhattan public high school.

"The people that were let go were the support staff, the people that are really on the front lines of education, not the ones that sit in the offices and have no knowledge of education," said Johnson.

Indeed, the unions say it's those doing real work on the ground who have suffered while the wealthiest continue to prosper.

Among their policy aims are an extension of the state's so-called millionaires’ tax and a living wage bill that would force companies receiving large city subsidies to pay higher wages.

"Forty-four percent of all income goes to one percent of the population, and everybody else is struggling just to survive," said Stuart Appelbaum of the retail, wholesale and department store union.

"We're interested in the one percent paying their fair share,” said Lillian Roberts, president of District Council 37. “"We've come together to say jobs and justice.”

It's no coincidence that some of the messaging is borrowed from Occupy Wall Street, which union leaders say helped change the conversation.

"You're standing in the middle of New York City right now, where half the households are below the poverty line. And now you’re hearing people talk about that where that wasn't being spoken about before," said Michael Mulgrew of the United Federation of Teachers.

While Governor Andrew Cuomo has been firmly opposed to the millionaires’ tax, in recent days he's signaled he may be open to some changes in the tax code, which union leaders call a welcome development.