June 19, 2013
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – Pay up, Mike.
In the second time in as many weeks, working men and women who help make the city run are imploring outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg to pay them for the work that they do. Last week, it was municipal employees who have been working for years without a fair contract, this week it’s some 4,000 veteran child care workers who performed their duties with pride but still have been denied their vacation pay (Watch Video).
“I’m waiting for my vacation money,” retiree Lucille Batts told LaborPress outside City Hall on Monday. “I worked 41 years. My vacation is 60 days, and they’re telling me that I’m not entitled because of some nonsense?”
Batts was one of many veteran child care workers across the city who opted to retire last fall rather than being terminated along with 1200 others when the Bloomberg administration implemented its Early Learn program and forced the closure of scores of long established child care programs citywide.
Subsequently, many child care workers like Batts have been waiting for almost a year now to receive the vacation money that they’re owed. During that time, the Administration for Children Services [ACS] and sponsors of the new child care programs brought in under Early Learn have been pointing fingers, and blaming each other for the delay.
Workers, however, are fed up.
“I understand we have new sponsorship,” Batts said. "But that’s not our problem. We earned our vacation [pay]. It should have been here by now. It’s nine months. And they have all kinds of tactics to say that we’re not entitled, we’re not going to get it, and all of that. I’m not giving up.”
To date, the city has only managed to extend vacation pay to about 50 of the more than 300 child care centers where employees are still owed money.
“ACS is not telling us anything,” Local 205 President Mabel Everett said. “We’re going to the city council, and the city council is saying that ACS is not giving them a response either.”
Councilwoman Margaret Chin put the blame squarely in Mayor Bloomberg’s lap, and said that she and her colleagues are going to push the chief executive “as hard as we can.”
“We urge the mayor to do the right thing,” Councilwoman Chin said. “It’s really not right for him not to pay these workers who work very hard to teach our children. Unfortunately, their centers were closed and they were laid off, but if they have vacation days that need to be paid, they should pay them.”
Councilman Andy King also expressed support for child care workers.
“It’s our responsibility to have the right conversation with the administration,” Councilman King said. “Not only holding them accountable, but allowing them to understand the point of doing the right thing by the people of New York.”
Despite administration claims to the contrary, organized labor groups representing child care workers citywide argue that Bloomberg’s Early Learn program has left thousands of New York City children without safe, affordable and quality public center-based child care.
Many advocates are already looking ahead to the next mayor to implement baseline funding for the city’s troubled child care centers.
“Money should always be allocated for day care,” Everett said. “We should not have to come back here and beg for money year after year.”
Until then, however, Bloomberg remains the only game in town.
“He has a little time left, so we want to make sure he knows about this and does the right thing before he leaves,” Councilwoman Chin said.