DC 1707 and Polls Denounce EarlyLearn Awards
May 14, 2012
By Marc Bussanich, LaborPress City Reporter
DC 1707 members stood on the steps of City Hall on Thursday, May 10 to denounce the EarlyLearn awards. The union, which represents 25,000 subsidized day care, Head Start and other non-profit employees, claims that Mayor Bloomberg’s EarlyLearn proposal is illegal, while the administration insists that EarlyLearn revolutionizes early child care in the City.
The union contends that the illegality stems from the City preventing The Day Care Council of New York and the Head Start Sponsoring Board Council of New York from bargaining for health insurance with the union.
This is the first time that a Request for Proposal for early child care and day center services has been issued by the City to competing vendors, whereas previously services were procured by negotiated acquisition with exiting unionized employers. Thus, the union believes the RFP is merely an attempt to throw out collectively-bargained wage agreements.
As a result, DC 1707 filed an injunction against the proposal in the South District Federal Court, but before the judge could issue a decision, the administration issued the awards to vendors late on Friday, May 4.
However, DC 1707’s Executive Director, Raglan George, Jr., said if the judge does rule that EarlyLearn is indeed a violation of the union’s right to bargain, it could stop the proposal from being implemented.
Particularly troubling to the union and some elected pols who spoke at City Hall yesterday is that EarlyLearn entails multiple detrimental aspects. For starters, DC 1707 members who have worked in early child care their entire careers risk losing their jobs or seeing their benefits reduced drastically because some vendors that have been providing services will lose funding from the City.
Of course, children stand to lose, again, because the number of available slots has been decreasing for the past four years. And the parents of the children who greatly depend on the availability of affordable, high-quality day care might be left in a severe quandary because new vendors who provide the services may do so expensively, forcing many single women of color to quit their jobs in order to be home with their children, thereby resulting in a burden to taxpayers and weakening the local economy.
George criticized the Bloomberg administration for not implementing first a pilot program to see whether EarlyLearn could be a practical solution for maintaining and expanding early childcare services.
“Instead, he just issued an RFP whimsically.”
Showing support for DC 1707 was Vincent Alvarez, President of the NYC Central Labor Council. He said that the actions taken via the EarlyLearn RFP completely circumvent valid collective bargaining agreements.
“What’s especially troubling, as President of the CLC and the over 1 million CLC members, is an ongoing trend by the City to circumvent collective bargaining agreements and the bypassing of long-standing wage precedents and standards.”
Alvarez added, “The economic problems in this city, state and country need to be addressed in a way that empowers working people, not hurt them.”
Council Member Latisha James was particularly angry over the EarlyLearn awards administered last week. She said that some of the new organizations awarded have never had a relationship with the Administration for Children’s Services.
“In fact, these new organizations are even strangers to the elected officials who represent the respected communities,” said James.
She said that she met with ACS officials just before the rally and learned that 6,507 slots for children in early child care and day care programs will be eliminated.
“There’s going to be a disparate impact on communities of color” because day care centers’ services in Brooklyn and Harlem, for example, will either be cut in half or entirely eliminated, James said.
One aspect of the EarlyLearn process that has particularly outraged the community, pols, union members and child advocates is the formula used to determine how vendors would be awarded.
James said, “The system is flawed because you can’t use zip codes to determine where poverty exists,” as individuals and families of different social classes sometimes live within the same zip code.
She added, “This proposal is racially gerrymandered, clearly and factually—there’s no way to try to mince words.”
She promised that she will be requesting data from ACS to be provided to all City Council members so that they can understand the means by which the agency decided to award some vendors with greater resources and others with less. firstname.lastname@example.org