More than 100 community activists, including members of the Occupy Albany movement, and labor-union members braved today’s frigid temperature to participate in the 22nd annual People’s State of the State rally in Albany’s Academy Park this afternoon. The event is held in advance of the annual governor’s State of the State address in January. Gov. Andrew Cuomo will give his speech tomorrow afternoon.
Traditionally, the State of the State has not addressed the pressing needs of average New Yorkers, said Mark Dunlea, executive director of the Hunger Action Coalition. Those include a higher minimum wage, a more generous unemployment benefit, affordable health care and other changes, he said.
“We have found that over the years, to put it in present context, we hear about the 1 percent and not a lot about the 99 percent,” Dunlea said at the rally, which included members of the Occupy Albany movement. “And we certainly don’t hear a lot about the problems of poverty and hunger and homelessness, which are all at record levels now in New York state.
“And we have the richest 1 percent getting 34 percent of the income in New York state, and we have not seen that since 1927, and what that led in 1927 to was the Great Depression,” he said.
Ken Brynien, president of the Public Employees Federation, said the people of the state want to remind the governor and legislators they have a responsibility to provide safety-net services for New Yorkers in need. They must ensure the state’s tax system is fair, which means the wealthiest residents and the most profitable companies “pay their fair share” to fund essential services, he said.
“One of the things we’re here to remind them about is that New York has a historic commitment to leading the nation in social and economic policy. New York has always led the nation in providing a safety net for the less fortunate, protecting workers from corporate greed and making sure that government jobs are filled by merit and not by political patronage, and ensuring that everyone pays their fair share to support necessary governmental services,” Brynien said.
“Unfortunately, New York is not leading the nation on these issues today. It is our job to convince our representatives in government that it is their responsibility to once again lead the nation, in economic fairness, justice and opportunity, and we must remind them of our responsibility as a society to provide the necessary services which are so vital to so many New Yorkers,” he said.
This is video of Dunlea speaking at the rally: