Posted by: vote4claxton | February 24, 2009



230 Community Center Layoffs at HA Despite Protests by Unions

Say Service Will Suffer As Duties Are Shifted To Private Providers


More than 230 social service and health-care workers employed in Housing Authority community centers were laid off Feb. 20, as the leaders of their District Council 37 locals railed against the city’s decision to contract out the work to the Department of Youth and Community Development funded non-profit centers nearby.

The workers, who are part of Social Service Employees Union Local 371 and Health Services Employees Local 768, received their layoff notices Jan. 2. Although Mayor Bloomberg then announced an agreement with the HA and the DYCD to keep the centers open by handing control to community based organizations, the union-represented Community Assistants, Community Associates and Community Service Aides jobs were eliminated.

Union: Service Already in Decline

On Feb. 19, Local 371 President Faye Moore gathered with members of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement, 100 Blacks in Education and the National Latino Officers Association out- side the St. Nicholas Houses Community Center in Harlem to protest the layoffs, saying that problems with the Beacon workers at the communitybased organizations were already arising.

The Chief-Leader/Michel Friang CRITICIZES JOB TRANSFER: Social Service Employees Local 371 President Faye Moore (arms folded at center) accused city officials of sacrificing quality service without adequate preparation in shifting work done at Housing Authority community centers from her members to workers employed by private organizations.

“Neither the incumbent workers nor the Beacon workers were prepared for this transition, and because of that there have been tensions, turf wars, that kind of stuff,” she said. “The one thing that the workers have told us is that these workers in the community based organizations leave at 8 o’clock. When we run the centers, we’re open until 10. And those two hours are critical, particularly for the older kids.”

Ms. Moore said that final talks with the HA had produced no response, and that the local never got to meet with DYCD, which she said was “very disturbing, because they do need some of our members to do certain work to get this done. That meeting should have happened sooner rather than later.”

“We’ve been out there for the last three weeks helping the Beacons get up to speed, and we’re confident that come Monday parents will have a good place to send their children in the Housing Authority,” said DYCD spokesman Ryan Dodge in a phone interview the day the layoffs took effect. Asked whether the centers would be closing earlier, he said that they would remain open until 10 p.m. “This week they’ve been operating from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. because of winter break; that may be the cause for the confusion,” he said.

Unions Bring Charges

Ms. Moore and Local 768 President Fitz Reid have filed improper practice petitions against the DYCD and the HA for contracting out civil service jobs, and are threatening further action if the transition is not handled correctly in the coming weeks. Ms. Moore said that one of the dangers of the city’s plan was that Beacon workers were not as well-screened as her members.

“We’re civil servants, we’ve been tested, we’ve proven merit and fitness,” she said. “We don’t know these people. In the Housing Authority, our members have to go through certain training and clearances in order to be able to work in a community center. And we don’t know if these people have been cleared by the State Central Registry for child abuse and neglect. We don’t know if these people have been trained in conflict resolution, mediation, all the crisis training our members go to . . . it’s like dropping a cabbage in the middle of a carrot patch. It seemed to be more important to get it done than how it got done.”

HA spokesman Howard Marder responded, “It’s not a question of replacing people, because the people who were on the [layoff] list, that’s based on a long-standing agreement with the union about selecting people with the least seniority.”

Alleges ‘Union-Busting’

Mr. Reid has launched a letter-writing campaign to the major community based organizations in the city, asking them to return DYCD funds that will be used to help hire replacements for the community center workers, calling it “blood money” being used for “union-busting.”

“The human dimension of these layoffs is immense,” Mr. Reid said in the letter. “I have pregnant mothers who will lose health coverage, sole supporters of families. Many are HA residents themselves. They will fall under the budget axe if you take DYCD money…[they] have just the sort of jobs which it is our goal to create in the community—good civil service jobs with benefits, including pensions and health care. How can you in good conscience strip those jobs from the community?”

Outside the St. Nicholas Houses, members of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement said that they were worried about the layoffs because of the demographics of civil servants being affected. “I think the Mayor’s hiding behind the budget crisis in order to do some selective culling of civil servants, and our concern is that the impact would disproportionally negatively impact Blacks and Latinos,” said Marquez Claxton, the organization’s co-founder.

Mayor: Race No Factor

Mayoral spokesman Marc La- Vorgna responded, “Obviously some reductions have to be made, and they’re going to be based on how we can deliver city service, not who the person is; it won’t be based on the ethnicity of the person.We have a need o reduce spending, but at the same time maintain the quality of life that New Yorkers want, and that’s based on what positions we can accomplish our goals without—the job positions, not the ethnicity of the person.”

Mr. Claxton said that the Mayor’s 2010 budget was particularly troubling, but that attention had been focused away because of the huge layoff threats for educators. “While people focused on the 14,000 Teachers, which many people would tell you was just a negotiating tool with the state, people forgot about the other number that’s just as dramatic, 9,000 others,” he said. “Our position is quite clearly that this first round shows there will be a disproportionate impact on blacks and Latinos.”

One member of the group, Jerome Rice, said that the HA residents served by the community centers would also suffer from the loss of continuity in care. “You don’t want just anyone working with your youth,” he said. “These individuals that have already developed a bond with our children, you want those individuals to stay there, for the sake of our community.”


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