New York, NY – The largest union representing property service workers in the United States in supporting the campaign to cut $1 Billion from the NYPD budget following a week of often violent police suppression of Constitutionally-protected demonstrators protesting the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Supporters of cutting the NYPD budget, including New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo and numerous members of the City Council, say that defunding the police and using the money to fund poorly resourced education, social and mental health services is a smarter way forward for all New Yorkers.
“It’s hard to understand that there isn’t money in this city to provide proper technical gear for all of our essential workers to get to work in a safe way,” 32BJ SEIU Political Director Candis Tolliver said this week. “There are cuts to essential workers all across the city — but there is money to put toward the policing of Black and Brown communities in a way that we’ve seen over and over again, but is more heightened now.”
Members of the Communities United for Police Reform campaign [CPR] insist that the NYPD is already over its headcount by 719 police officers and presides over an “opaque and impenetrable” budget that has become an “octopus” with tentacles sucking the life out of other vital city agencies.
The $4.8 million in wages the City of New York currently owes to 32BJ school cleaners is just one small example.
“That money hasn’t been paid out to these people who are struggling to make ends meet and feed their families, but we have money to pump into the Police Department?” Tolliver said.
According to CPR, cutting the Police Cadet program, alone, will save the city $200,000,000 in fiscal year 2021, and bring the NYPD into parity with other city agencies now subjected to a hiring freeze.
Removing the NYPD from schools, homeless outreach and mental health responses would save the city $462,000,000.
The CPR campaign also wants to “incentivize” the NYPD to “clean its own house.”
Last year, the NYPD paid out $230 million in lawsuits. Additionally, there are between 200 and 300 officers who are currently on modified duty or facing disciplinary charges. At least 10 were involved in “unacceptable killings of New Yorkers,” according to Leo Ferguson, an organizer with Jews for Economic and Racial Justice.
“When you add up all of this, we get to $275 million,” Ferguson said “That’s money that should be deducted from the NYPD’s budget in 2021, and, in fact, should come out of their budget in years forward. Otherwise, they have absolutely no incentive to crack down on misconduct and abuse.”
City Council Member Carlina Rivera [D-2nd District] said the City of New York has a history of prioritizing police funding over community needs. She vowed to go into budget negotiations with the determination to “slash the NYPD budget,” invest in cure violence programs and reform police practices, including banning the kinds of choke holds that killed George Floyd on May 25.
“We want real resources,” Council Member River said this week. “It’s absolutely shameful that in the wake of all of these protests, our mayor still clings to the notion that the NYPD’s massive budget doesn’t play a huge role in the inequities and racism that we see in this city. It’s just shocking that the mayor cuts education, social and housing programs with reckless abandon under this guise of a difficult financial crisis, when there are clearly other areas of the city budget where cuts can help lessen or even remove the financial hurt of these community programs.”
The head of the largest healthcare union in the nation issued a statement this week calling for the repeal of New York’s 50-A law, which blocks access to police records and the “speedy prosecution” of officers found to be using excessive and criminal force.
“We are a nation founded by people who wanted the right to assemble and protest without retribution or retaliation,” 1199SEIU President George Gresham said. “For once, let’s make sure we are operating from the same set of rules by holding officers who violate the rights of protestors accountable for their actions.”
Tolliver said now is the time for New York City’s labor unions to take a stand against police brutality.
“So many of our workers are Black and Brown,” Tolliver said. “They are essential workers. Our members know what it means, first hand, to be essential workers, [and] what it means to be out every single day in this [COVID-19] pandemic. We’re experiencing the brunt of a lot of deaths. Over one-hundred 32BJ members have died of this disease. And yet, we are the same members, the same folks that are in these communities that are heavily policed.”
The situation is at a point now where many 32BJ members are so terrified of being subjected to police brutality, that they’re afraid to go to work.
“They don’t want to come into contact with aggressive policing as they go to their jobs,” Tolliver said. “Now, is the time to really rethink how we spend our money in our city. We are essential workers. Most of our workers don’t have any protective gear to do their job. And the city is saying over and over again, that they don’t have the funds to provide PPE to our members — but they have money to give, more and more, to the Police Department.”
Constance Malcolm is a member of 1199SEIU. In 2012, NYPD cops shot and killed her son Ramarley Graham in his own Bronx apartment.
“When you prioritize funding and shield the NYPD, instead of investing in our communities, the impact is deadly for Blacks and Latinos,” Malcolm said this week. “We are calling for a freeze on the hiring of police. We’re calling for the firing of cops that kill and abuse us, and the removal of police from social services. We don’t need them for that.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio has a long and tempestuous relationship with the NYPD. On Thursday, LaborPress asked the Public Advocate if the NYPD is now dictating public policy to the mayor.
“I really don’t understand how this mayor is making the decisions he is making,” Williams said. “I speak to the mayor, I speak to [Police Commissioner Dermot] Shea, and we have decent conversations. But what I see played out appears to be so different. I don’t know. I know that there is just no leadership when it comes to what’s happening in this city. There’s just none.”