Public Employee Press
LAYOFFS: The human toll
City fires 530 School Aides
Union lawsuit froze layoffs for four weeks
By ALFREDO ALVARADO
Less than two weekS after Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg narrowly won
re-election, his Dept. of Education gave layoff notices to 530 School
Aides. Friday, Nov. 13, was their last day of work on behalf of the citys
1.1 million schoolchildren.
Hundreds of dedicated public employees, who are among the lowest-paid
in the citys school system, have lost their jobs in the midst of
the worst economy weve seen in decades, said DC 37 Executive
Director Lillian Roberts of the mayors mass layoffs. And thousands
of children in the citys poorest communities have lost the support
staff they desperately need.
Among the hardest hit was East Harlems District 4, where 22 percent
of the Aides 27 workers were laid off. District 6 in Washington
Heights, another poor community, lost 47 of its 263 School Aides.
In contrast, Districts 1, 2, and 3 in Manhattan lost only 1 percent of
their Aides, while District 15 in Park Slope lost only 6 percent.
Our union is outraged that these longtime, permanent workers who
have played such a critical role in the education of our children have
now lost their jobs, said Veronica Montgomery-Costa, the president
of Dept. of Education Employees Local 372 and of District Council 37.
These layoffs will have a devastating impact on the entire school
Legal action wins four weeks pay
DC 37 and Local 372 waged an intense legal battle to prevent the cuts
and managed to keep the members on the payroll for four extra weeks after
DOEs target date of Oct. 16.
The unions legal team, led by General Counsel Mary OConnell
and attorneys Meaghean Murphy, Steve Sykes and Aaron Amaral, won a temporary
restraining order Oct. 15 in New York State Supreme Court, holding off
the mass firing of the Local 372 members.
After an Oct. 26 hearing on the unions request for a permanent injunction
against the layoffs, Judge Edmead ruled that the union had established
a likelihood of success in its lawsuit; however, at the DOEs request,
the court directed the union to post a bond of $780,000 to cover the citys
potential loss as the court case continued. The union declined to post
We felt that posting the bond would be like asking the members to
pay out of their own money to keep their jobs, said Local 372 President
Montgomery-Costa. This was an attempt to make the members and the
union look like the villains.
The fight continues
The union lawyers are scheduled to appear in court in January for a preliminary
hearing on the case against the layoffs.
We will continue to vigorously pursue the pending lawsuit to reinstate
these School Aides and challenge the citys attempt to chip away
at the fairness and equity in our education and civil service systems,
said Roberts. The layoffs were first scheduled for summer, but an agreement
on health-care savings between the city and the Municipal Labor Committee
included a 90-day postponement.
Local 372 fought to protect the jobs by lobbying to restore funding and
launched a radio ad campaign against the layoffs in September. The 530
firings represented a substantial reduction from the more than 2,000 that
had been projected earlier this year.
Have YOU been laid off? At Oct. 9 and
10 DOE information sessions and in later interviews, the Public Employee
Press spoke with Local 372 members who were being laid off about the impact
the firings would have on their lives and their schools. Their stories
appear on pages 57 and 10 of this issue. Articles about laid-off
DC 37 members at the Administration for Childrens Services are on
Other laid-off members of DC 37 are encouraged to call PEP at 212-815-1520
or e-mail PEPeditor@dc37.net
to discuss the toll of the layoffs on them, their families and the agencies
where they worked.
Im needed at
that school. I dont understand this at all.
Joe-Ann Brown, Local 372
To the members of Local 372, whose motto is Our job is kids,
the tragedy of layoffs extends beyond the personal economic pain
to deep concern for the citys schoolchildren.
Im needed at that school, says Joe-Ann Brown,
showing how passionately she feels about her job as one of five
School Aides at the Science Skills Center High School in downtown
Brooklyn, where she has worked since January 2007.
Like most of her colleagues, who are School Aides and SAPIS counselors
at the Brooklyn high school, the Local 372 member is disappointed
and hurt that the DOE has decided that her services are no longer
I know how to deal with those kids, says Brown, who
has a daughter of her own. Before moving to the high school, she
worked for eight years at P.S. 56 in Brooklyn.
Always active in her community, Brown was also president and treasurer
of the PTA at her daughters school, where she volunteered
to supervise the students in the schoolyard and help with filing.
When she saw there was an opening at the high school, she jumped
at the opportunity. I wanted to work with high school students
and try something different, she said.
Like other members of her local, Brown is shocked that the Dept.
of Education would lay off School Aides just two months into the
new school year.
We know this job, and the need is there. I dont understand
this at all, she said.