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DC 37 accuses education department of "union-busting"

Today was the last day of work for more than a hundred school aides whose union says they were laid off because of mismanagement rather than budget cuts.

District Council 37, the city’s largest municipal union, attacked the education department this afternoon for what they called “a clear case of union-busting.”

In a statement, Veronica Montgomery-Costa, president of DC 37’s Local 372 chapter, accused Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein of diverting resources out of the school system into no-bid contracts. The union also resurrected the summer’s fight over parent-funded school aides, saying that those privately-funded positions undercut union jobs, resulting in the loss of over 700 positions.

Education department spokeswoman Ann Forte disputed the union’s numbers and characterization of the layoffs.

The 127 DC 37 workers leaving their jobs today are mostly central department employees not being taken out of schools, Forte said. She added that these workers found out in June that they were among 475 workers whose jobs were eliminated in the mayor’s city-wide budget cuts.

Last Friday, 587 school aides received letters telling them that they may be included in the next round of layoffs, which will go into effect on October 16, Forte said. Today, 530 of those aides found out that they would definitely lose their jobs.

Because principals determine how budget cuts will fall in their schools, each principal individually made the decision to either cut school aide positions, excess teachers or eliminate other expenses, Forte said.

After principals made these decisions, the education department summed the total number of positions lost in each district. The most junior aides received pink slips, with those with more seniority will be shuffled among schools to fill in vacant positions.

Forte did not rule out the possibility of further rounds of layoffs, but said that she expected the current round to comprise the bulk of eliminated positions.

Responding to the union’s criticism of the department’s decision to retain the parent-paid “substitute school aides,” Forte said that the school aides were not competing with parent-funded assistant positions for their jobs.

“The parent-funded positions are not school aides and they are not supplanting the jobs of school aides,” Forte said.

The union has launched a public relations offensive against the education department and the mayor in recent weeks. A month ago, the union began running radio ads highlighting the importance of school aides and attacking the Bloomberg administration for the budget cuts.

Here’s the full text of DC 37’s statement on the layoffs:

DC 37 Outraged Over DOE layoffs of Over 700 School Support Staff

DC 37 Executive Director Lillian Roberts and Local 372 President Veronica Montgomery-Costa voice outrage over the DOE layoffs of 714 school support staff

At a time when the NYC Department of Education continues to squander millions on outside contracts, it is laying off over 700 school support staff for budgetary reasons.

This first round of layoffs is taking place today and will see 127 workers lose their jobs. The workers are Substance Abuse Prevention and Intervention Specialists (SAPIS), Community Associates, Community Assistants, School Neighborhood Workers, Computer Service Technicians and others.

On October 16, the second round of layoffs is slated to take place. That round will include 587 school aides.

Veronica Montgomery-Costa, President of Local 372 of District Council 37, says, “I am outraged that these workers who play a critical role in the education of our children are losing their jobs. This does not have to happen. In the wealthier districts the Chancellor has been willing to allow parents to provide funds and hire parent-funded aides – a form of privatization. The Mayor also wants to divert taxpayer dollars and raise the cap on charter schools rather than pouring resources into the city’s 1,400 public schools that educate our 1.1 million school children. Why is it that when budget cuts occur, children’s needs come last and support services are the first to be cut?”

Cynthia Dowdy, Chapter Chair of Local 372’s SAPIS workers says, “How can the city lay off workers who help parents, protect our children, especially at a time when drug abuse among our city’s young people is on the rise. For example, without the one SAPIS worker assigned to IS 296 and IS 162 in District 24, the 1,218 students in those two junior high schools will have no one to stand between them and the increasing number of drug dealers that are trying to seduce them. These layoffs are a tragedy.”

DC 37 Executive Director Lillian Roberts said, “This is a clear case of union–busting. These layoffs come at a time when the NYC Department of Education continues to squander millions in taxpayers’ dollars on no-bid contracts to private companies. Many of these contracts go to companies outside the city. The Administration continues to ignore the Civil Service system’s rules and regulations.”

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