Holding signs that ranged from pro-union to anti-war, about 50 people attended a rally Saturday at the Rose Garden in Bethlehem to protest state and national budget cuts and corporate tax breaks and loopholes.
The rally was organized by Tom Ulrich, of We The People of Lehigh Valley, which according to its website promotes progressive causes. Ulrich told the gathering to “connect the dots,” to see the links between a wide range of social and economic issues such as unions, public schools, the environment, peace and social justice, and to unify over the impact of state and national budget cuts to these causes.
Ulrich said democracy does not thrive when there is huge economic disparity between people.
Craig Olsen, a naturalist from Lower Saucon Township, said he attended the rally because “I’m really getting fed up with fat cats getting all the breaks and the working people and ordinary people not getting a break.”
Judy Smullen, a retired English teacher from Bethlehem, was among the protestors who lined the 800 block of Union Boulevard. “I think it's appalling that in a time of economic crisis that [some government officials] are trying to destroy unions and the middle class,” Smullen said.
In a rousing speech, Ed Balukas, president of UAW Local 677 in Allentown, criticized Gov. Tom Corbett for not reducing the cost of running his own office and he spoke out against the maligning of teachers in the country. “Teachers are the saviours of this country. They are not the enemy,” he said.
Elisa Zaehringer, advocacy coordinator for the Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley, which helps low-income families, told the crowd numerous programs that help disadvantaged people were in danger of being eliminated or cut, including Community Services Block Grants, CACLV’s core funding source.
“I ask you, where are our priorities? The common good is under attack,” Zaehringer said.
“Programs aimed at helping those who are experiencing tough times and attempt to build healthy communities are being slashed while billions of dollars are being given to large corporations who shop jobs overseas and to the wealthiest of Americans in the form of tax breaks. We need to take back democracy and demand a responsible budget from our leaders,” she said.