September 9, 2011
By Marc Bussanich
On the steep steps of the Department of Education (DOE) building on Chambers Street September 7th, Local 372 N.Y.C. Board of Education Employees, an affiliate of DC37 was joined by members of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) Transport Workers Union (TWU) and many other unions. They gathered to protest the almost 800 layoffs the Bloomberg administration is threatening against Local 372 members.
The union’s members work in a variety of functions in the city’s elementary and secondary schools, such as school aides, health aides, community coordinators and school crossing guards.
Local 372 President, Santos Crespo, spoke using a bullhorn and reminded his members that while Mayor Bloomberg is looking to layoffs, about $4.3 billion of the DOE’s $24 billion budget (which doesn’t include the $250 million the city won via the federal Race to the Top competition last year) has been outsourced to pay for high-paid consultants whose titles sound intriguing but vague: “innovation managers,” “achievement coaches” and “talent managers.”
Crespo was soon followed by a number of city politicians, including Councilwoman Latitia James, who spoke passionately against “the economic disparity that is growing in the city” and concluded that Mayor Bloomberg should rescind tax breaks for “millionaires” and use the money to pay for school staff salaries.
Also in attendance were Councilman Jumaane Williams, who was just arrested by the police at the West Indian parade in Brooklyn on Monday and claimed the arrest was racially motivated, and Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, who told the crowd that “the city should be making investments in the public education system and not be generating unemployment through layoffs.”
According to Crespo, DOE officials canceled two prior meetings with union negotiators and a third meeting was pushed back “only twenty minutes before the scheduled meeting.” Crespo said the union’s staff conducted an analysis and concluded that if just one percent of the $4.3 billion outsourced to the consultants were budgeted for the almost 800 Local 372 members’ salaries, there wouldn’t be a need for layoffs.
A Local 372 member, Pamela, has worked at Louis Brandeis High School in Manhattan as a school aid for the past 28 years. She supervises six different lunch periods “to make sure the students respect each other and school rules” such as no smoking in the cafeteria. She said she was inspired by the rally and was glad to see and hear from numerous politicians. But she also noted that the politicians have to do more than speak at a rally to protect jobs. “They have to fight for our job security.”