January 9, 2013
Raglan George Jr., Executive Director of DC 1707, the union representing day care and Head Start workers, resumed his one-man march outside City Hall on the first Monday of the New Year against Mayor Bloomberg’s EarlyLearn plan to improve the early childhood education system.
According to union officials, the onset of EarlyLearn has severely uprooted the city’s once-envied early childcare system by reducing reimbursement rates to providers and requiring them to absorb more costs. The latest charge by the union is that the city has to yet pay nearly 4,000 union members vacation wages.
Throughout the fall, George Jr. talked with passerby every Monday to let them know how EarlyLearn is adversely affecting children, parents and union members, such as parents having to scramble to find comparable and affordable child care services because a nearby center closed or children losing access to subsidized care because they live in a zip code determined by the city to be above average income.
While there was a lot of attention on EarlyLearn leading up to its inauguration, George Jr. lamented that EarlyLearn’s disruption to parents and children, the loss of almost 1,000 day care jobs and now workers going unpaid is being underreported.
“The city should understand how the Mayor is destroying the future of the city’s young children. It’s time for the citizens of the city to start speaking up,” said George Jr.
George Jr. reiterated his call for the City Council, for which he is thankful for its efforts to allocate $40 million in last year’s budget to fund a number of different day care centers through June 2013, must hold a meeting soon to shed light on EarlyLearn’s problems and mitigate them.
Council Member Robert Jackson, who represents District 7 in Harlem, agreed with George Jr. but noted that community activists and parents must lay the groundwork preceding and following a council hearing.
“We’ll need the unity of different constituencies to press for a hearing,” said Jackson.
G.L. Tyler, DC 1707’s Political Director, said that the total amount owed by the Administration for Children’s Services, the city agency responsible for monitoring the city’s day care and Head Start networks, to DC 1707 members could amount to between $10 to $15 million dollars.
“Day care and Head Start workers who accumulated 60 days’ worth of vacation pay over their careers expected to be recompensed by the city after EarlyLearn took effect. But the city’s position is that ACS must first complete audits of the day care centers that received awards to provide services before it agrees to pay the workers,” said Tyler.
Apparently, however, ACS concluded the audits last summer, according to the union.
“If the audits are complete, why aren’t our members being paid? The funds come directly from ACS and if the agency didn’t have careful oversight over the centers, then how can they deny the workers who had no responsibility administering the program. Clearly, this is a labor law violation and the union will be pursuing legal options,” Tyler said.