May 16, 2011
By Kismet Barksdale
Chanting “we are one” and “enough is enough,” thousands of child care workers rallied outside City Hall on May 11th to protest city budget cuts to child care funding. This massive crowd of DC 1707 members was joined by many locals of the Central Labor Council, TWA Local 100, DC 37 and the UFT. It’s estimated that eight thousand turned out for this demonstration.
AFSCME Secretary-Treasurer Lee A. Saunders was a featured speaker at the event along with DC 1707 Executive Director Raglan George, DC 37 Executive
Director Lillian Roberts and AFT President Randi Weingarten. Saunders rallied the crowd saying, “We are here to speak up for the children of New York. We have got to stand up for them like never before, and we demand fairness!”
Raglan George, the executive director of District Council 1707, described child care services as “essential job support for low-income families” and took the mayor to task for restoring only $40 million of the $91 million he had originally intended to cut. “The Bloomberg administration has not restored sufficient money for subsidized day care,” George said. As a result, he said, “Thousands of children will not receive subsidized day care.”
UFT President Michael Mulgrew said the only people asked to sacrifice are the middle class, workers and the poor. “We now have a city where half of the households are below the poverty line. It was not this way 10 years ago.” TWU Local 100 President John Samuelsen took issue with City budget cuts to human services at a time when the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are costing $3 billion each week.
Members of the City Council spoke at the rally and pledged to fight to restore child care funding. Councilman Robert Jackson said, “I am glad to see that you are ready to fight. The City Council is going to make sure that there are no cuts to day care.”
“I have no idea where I will put my kids, and I don’t know what to do with them. I will not be able to work,” said Katimi Bouare, one of the parents at the rally.
The mayor announced in his executive budget on May 6 that he will cut $51 million from city child care. He had originally intended to cut $91 million, in the form of 16,500 child care subsidies for working families. Under pressure unions and advocates the Mayor was forced to restore $40 million of the $91 million. It continues to be unclear how the mayor intends to maintain services as he implements his funding cut.
These cuts are a dramatic reversal of the city’s promise to expand early learning opportunities for our children and parents have been notified that there may not be a day care programs available to serve their children next year. According to the Emergency Coalition to Save Child Care, Mayor Bloomberg’s revised proposal would still deny subsidized day care services to 7,000 children of low-income working families next year.