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PEP May 2011
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Public Employee Press

Taking our case to the City Council:
Unionists blast cuts and contracting out


Executive Director Lillian Roberts at
City Hall March 24.

District Council 37 went on the offensive against Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's proposed massive budget cuts, which would wipe out thousands of jobs and shrink public services. Union leaders pressed the City Council to restore the funding needed to keep parks, libraries and swimming pools open, protect children and schools and prevent layoffs.

Leading the charge was Executive Director Lillian Roberts, who went before the City Council's Finance and Contracts Committees March 24 with proposals that would save the city hundreds of millions of dollars.

She called for the Council to use its authority under the City Charter to cut payments for consultant contracts by 10 percent, a method that has saved money for Los Angeles and Chicago and would generate $400 million in savings for New York City - enough to cancel most of the threatened layoffs.

Roberts also pressed for legislation to bring greater transparency to the contracting-out process by requiring that city agencies list their outside contracts and consultants and how much each is paid. "This would show the public the city's armies of overpriced consultants," she said. "I'm calling on the City Council to end the massive waste of millions of dollars on these contracts."

Agencies understaffed

Local 1549 leaders Alma Roper and Ralph Palladino at City Hall on March 15.

Addressing the Council's Transportation Committee on March 11, Local 376 Treasurer Tom Kattou pointed out that the Dept. of Transportation had contracted out $78 million worth of infrastructure repairs that the local's "trained, experienced, efficient" members could have done. He also explained that DOT saved $1.8 million by cutting the hours of road crews during the winter, but then had to spend $2 million in overtime to fix the resulting pothole crisis.

Local 1549 Executive Vice President Alma Roper told the Public Safety Committee March 15 that the city should save money by switching uniformed officers from performing clerical duties to patrolling city streets and letting Local 1549 members perform the administrative tasks .

Speaking before the General Welfare Committee March 24, Local 1549 Second Vice President Ralph Palladino blasted the mayor's plan to lay off 118 clerical employees from the Administration for Children's Services and eliminate 94 Human Resources Administration positions. "HRA is already understaffed," he said, "and Food Stamp applicants already wait too long in overcrowded centers."

SSEU Local 371 President Faye Moore urged the Council to restore the $1.9 million that eliminated 37 child welfare workers. "In these tough times, we cannot allow the mayor to cut the city's safety nets or neglect the city's most vulnerable population, its children," she said.

With the mayor's budget axe set to fall on the city's public library systems, leaders of DC 37's library locals protested at a hearing held March 24 by the City Council's Cultural Affairs and Libraries Committee.

Libraries in trouble

"Let's not mince words," said Eileen Muller, president of Brooklyn Library Guild Local 1482. "A cut of this magnitude will gut the Brooklyn libraries. We cannot possibly absorb cuts of this magnitude without massive layoffs. This budget tells New Yorkers that the mayor intends to demolish the libraries, it's as simple as that."

Queens Library Guild Local 1321 President John Hyslop urged the city to raise revenue by collecting proper taxes on cell phone antennas. New York Public Library Guild Local 1930 President Valentin Colon and Quasi-Public Employees Local 374 President Cuthbert Dickenson also testified.

At the Council's Health Committee hearing March 28, Local 420 President Carmen Charles blasted the Health and Hospitals Corp.'s effort to privatize the Brooklyn Central Laundry and the waste of $4 million on a consultant to help cut costs at HHC. "Instead of wasting money on consultants, HHC needs to come and consult with us, because we can help save them money."

Local 372 President Santos Crespo told the Education Committee April 8 that layoffs and attrition over the past three years have eliminated nearly 2,200 School Aides, Health Aides and Family Paraprofessionals from city schools. "Our members are like a strand of steel binding the schools and the community, but that steel is starting to fray. We cannot allow it to fray."

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