November 21, 2013
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – Raglan George, Jr.’s year-long march outside City Hall urging the restoration of child care cuts sustained under the Bloomberg administration’s Early Learn program, ended this week amid accolades and high hopes that Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio will soon reverse course and restore vital funding. Watch Video
“We just had an election, and it seems like this city is now going to be a democratic city again which is a good thing,” District Council 1707‘s executive director told supporters gathered on the steps of City Hall on Monday. “We hired good leaders and we hired Bill de blasio who I think is going to be a tremendous asset not only child care, but to the city itself.”
DC 1707, the social services workers’ union in New York City, suffered mightily during the Bloomberg years, losing over a thousand members to the implementation of Early Learn reforms while thousands more New York City kids found they were suddenly being denied services.
“[Raglan] understood more than anyone else what our future would look like if our children did not receive the early childhood education that they needed,” said G.L. Tyler, political director, District Council 1707.
George, Jr. spent the last year marching alone around City Hall on Monday mornings with a sign denouncing the Bloomberg administration’s devastating child care policies, and imploring City Council members to restore what funding that they could. His efforts eventually attracted the support of then mayoral underdog Bill de Blasio in April.
“I am not only humbled at some of the things that were said about me, but I think it’s something that every labor leader in this city should consider,” Geoge, Jr. added. “If they’re going to defend the members of their union, they should do everything that they can to do that. That’s what we are hired for, that’s what we get paid for. That’s what I did. It wasn’t exceptional. That’s something that I had to do on behalf of my members.”
John English, Afscme’s field services director for New York City, awarded George, Jr. with a special proclamation honoring the DC 1707 leader as a dedicated trade unionist equally committed to the members of his union as well as the well-being of his community.
“Your march to save early childhood education in New York City inspired the members of DC 1707, our entire union, and made a powerful statement about what our nation’s priorities should be: protecting and safeguarding the weak, the old, the young,” English said.
District Council 37 Associate Director Oliver Gray proclaimed that George Jr., has “set the stage for a whole new way of doing business within the labor movement.”
“One man can make a difference,” Gray said.
Mabel Everett, president of Local 205, hailed George, Jr. and hoped never to have to “beg” on the steps of City Hall under the de Blasio administration.
“We have fought a hard fight,” Everett said. “We won it. And now we’re thankful, and we’re hopeful that they’re restoring all of the youth pre-k, and maybe we will be able to get our kindergarten back, and after school programs back. We’re still here.”
New York City Councilman G. Oliver Koppell called the Bloomberg administration’s child care policies “destructive.”
“You talk about trying to eliminate inequality, you can’t possibly reduce inequality without providing day care and child care services to our families,” Councilman Koppell said.
After a year of talking to the city’s movers and shakers outside the gates of City Hall, George, Jr., expressed regrets that Michael Bloomberg was not among them.
“The mayor did not stop,” George, Jr. said. “He had a year to do that. He hired a commissioner that didn’t even have the courtesy to sit down and talk to me about early childhood education. He ducked that like he was afraid to talk to me.”
With more than a decade in office and limitless resources, George Jr. lamented that the outgoing mayor did “nothing” for the working class.
On the contrary, the DC 1707 leader said the mayor tried to “destroy them.”