Municipal Government

DC 1707 Members Mobilize for Political Action

DC 1707 Members Mobilize for Political Action

September 18, 2012
By Marc Bussanich and Neal Tepel

In preparation for anticipated reduced budgets on every level of government, the District Council 1707 AFSCME Political Department with technical and research assistance from AFSCME and the NYS AFSCME Political and Legislative Departments, held training for DC 1707 members. The conference took place on Saturday, September 15th and was attended by almost 200 members.

The District Council is planning a comprehensive program of lobbying beginning this Fall in which every city council and most state legislators will be visited as well as key Congress members and Senators to discuss the importance of childcare and the severe impact that Managed Care will have on clients and workers. Several speakers at the session spoke about the upcoming fights at every level to restore child care from Mayor Bloomberg’s EarlyLearn as well as the important role union members, houses of worship and parents must play in the lobbying process.

Bloomberg’s Reactionary Agenda

NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg has already announced a reduction of city daycare and social services in the upcoming budget. This will be the 12th round of cuts under the Bloomberg administration. DC 1707 and their allies have been fighting back against the Mayor’s relentless attacks on organized child care throughout the Mayor’s tenure.

DC 1707 Executive Director Raglan George said that, “We win when members are active and when even more members organize our parents, community organizations, houses of worship and lobbying our elected officials. Mayor Bloomberg has proven himself in line with Bush and Romney and other national Republicans who want to push back the clock to the 19th century. Bloomberg’s plans are anti-child, anti-family, anti-women and anti-labor.”

The message for those attending the session was clear: union members must be involved in the electoral process both in the November national and state elections, as well as the city elections in 2013. GL Tyler, DC 1707’s Political Director, said, “We need to get involved with the Mayoral election. If we don’t, we’ll have another Bloomberg on our hands.”

Brian McDonnell, the state’s AFSCME Political and Legislative Director, illustrated a map of the United States to show how the presidential election is shaping up. President Barack Obama is currently ahead of presidential challenger Mitt Romney by about 3 percentage points in the polls, according to a recent Real Clear Politics poll (http://bit.ly/NAlMq3), but it takes a minimum of 270 electoral college votes to win the presidency.

McDonnell said that some of the toss-up states include New Hampshire (4), Ohio (18), Virginia (13), Florida (29), Iowa (6), Colorado (9) and Nevada (6). “President Obama is ahead in Michigan [16] and Pennsylvania [20], but it’s a tight race.” One reason why the race in Pennsylvania might be a tighter race than expected is because the Republican-controlled Legislature passed a strict voter ID law that requires voters to show a photo ID, which a state judge upheld on August 15. Back in June, Mike Turzai, Pennsylvania House Majority Leader, while speaking at a committee meeting famously said that voter ID will allow Mitt Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, http://bit.ly/SpKohY

McDonnell said that because of Pennsylvania’s strict photo ID voter law, approximately 500,000 votes might not be cast on November 6. To ensure that Pennsylvania voters meet the state’s strict requirements, AFCSME will be transporting AFSCME members from the New York metropolitan area to Philadelphia in the coming weeks. In New York, there are eight competiitive Congressional races and if the Democrats win those races, there’s a chance they might tip House control back to the Democrats, thereby restoring Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. McDonnell noted, “If Ms. Pelosi wants to become Speaker of the House again, New York will have to lead the way.”

According to Kate Nocera of Politico, “New York isn’t what you’d typically call a swing state-it’s about as blue as they come. But in the battle for the House majority, few states matter more.” Indeed, New York Rep. Steve Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is quoted in Ms. Nocera’s column that “there’s no longer any such thing as a safe Republican in New York.”

Secretary Treasurer Reyes Empathized with Members

Newly-elected AFSCME Secretary-Treasurer Laura Reyes attended the conference and told the attendees the personal struggles she’s encountered because her son suffers from cerebral palsy. “My story echoes throughout this room. I started out working in a home day center at 18 years old, and then as a pre-school teacher and struggled to be recognized as the professional I was. We were a low-income family and were discriminated against, which resulted in little care for me and my son. I was told, at best, my son would be able to talk and be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.” Her son now attends college in California.

Ms. Reyes also impressed upon DC 1707 the importance of this year’s election and the role they must play. “The upcoming election is quite clear. President Barack Obama offers real solutions to the problems of working families. President Obama has a vision. He wants to commit in his budget $85 million for Head Start, serving 900,000 children. But Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan’s budget would cut 200,000 Head Start jobs over two years, denying tens of thousands of children of child care subsidies,” said Reyes.

She also noted that the Mayor’s conception of privatizing publicly-funded early childhood education has had a destructive effect on the nation’s most comprehensive child care system. Under Mayor Bloomberg’s EarlyLearn initiative, centers that have been successfully providing services for many years and know how to coordinate and administer care have been forced to close. The city has now replaced successful community-based day care centers with educational corporations having no history of providing quality educational services in New York City.

Associate Executive Director Luz Santiago commended the members in the room for their actions that influenced the City Council to restore monies to ensure that centers that didn’t receive contracts from EarlyLearn continued to provide services. The Council put the money in because of what you did, going to demonstrations, writing letters and picking up the phone. That commitment you showed saved centers.”

Comptroller Liu Calls Early Learn “A Boondoggle”

The city’s Comptroller, John Liu, also attended and spoke to the members about the chaos that resulted from implementation of EarlyLearn. “EarlyLearn has become a boondoggle. The City was not prepared to implement EarlyLearn, so we had to work hard to win 200 contract extensions [for different day care centers],” said Liu.

While DC 1707 is still waiting for a decision from a U.S. federal court in Manhattan and the U.S. Department of Labor regarding EarlyLearn, Cecilia Perry, Public Policy Analyst for AFSCME, told members that the national union drafted a letter to be submitted by the New York Congressional Delegation to Secretary Kathleen Sebelius of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to “encourage New York City to revise and re-issue Early Learn’s RFP in order to ensure that low-income families’ access to these critical programs is not impeded and to honor collective bargaining agreements with child care and Head Start workers.”

Perry also informed DC 1707 members of the consequences to Head Start and child care funding if the sequestration cuts stemming from the Budget Control Act of 2011, whose aim is to reduce the country’s budgetary deficit. Under the act, most Federal programs face an across-the-board cut in January 2013 if Congress doesn’t enact a plan before then to reduce the national debt by $1.2 trillion, according to AFSCME.

“If the sequestration cuts go through, 50 percent of the cuts will come from defense spending and the other 50 percent from discretionary spending such as Medicare and Head Start,” said Perry. In New York, state funding will go from about $496 million in FY 2012 and be reduced to $38 million in FY 2013, resulting in 1,275 Head Start jobs lost and 6,119 fewer children served. And the child care block grant funding will be reduced to $8 million in FY 2013 from $101 million, resulting in 6,065 fewer children receiving child care subsidies.   marc@laborpress.org 

September 18, 2012

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