Public Employee Press: PEP Talk
Union demands fair funding for City libraries, schools
By MIKE LEE
As the clock ticks toward approving New York City’s Fiscal Year 2023 budget deadline, both the mayor and the City Council continue to press forward with conflicting priorities.
On April 26, Mayor Eric Adams released his preliminary Executive Budget for the upcoming fiscal year that calls for $99.7 billion in spending, more than $1 billion larger than his initial proposal in February.
This is in response to the City Council’s proposed budget, released in early April, that increases the overall funding on top of Adams’ preliminary budget by $1.6 billion this year, adding $2.8 billion in the Fiscal Year 2023.
Among the highlights are $163 million in additional money to fund health and counseling services in schools, along with $14.1 million to hire social workers and guidance counselors.
As before, DC 37 leaders stepped up on behalf of essential workers and called for much-needed city services funding.
At a March 8 City Council Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations hearing, Queens Library Guild Local 1321 President John Hyslop asked the Council for additional funding.
“The Mayor’s Preliminary Budget barely allows library staff to maintain our current service level, which will strain us next year. As this pandemic recedes, library users will flock back to their branches demanding more of everything we offer, and we barely have enough staff now,” said Hyslop, speaking on behalf of DC 37 locals 374, 1482, and 1930 that represent library workers.
Including Hyslop, the locals are led by Leonard Paul, President of the Quasi-Public Employees Local 374; Ronaldo Barber, President of Brooklyn Library Guild Local 1482; and Deborah Allman, President of New York Public Library Guild Local 1930.
Hyslop pointed out that libraries do not have enough children’s librarians to meet program needs, and multiple library branches do not have any custodians. He called on the Council to provide more funding to meet the libraries’ needs in the post-pandemic era.
On May 19, elected officials and activists called for funding for the city’s cultural institutions. At the rally, Local 374 President Leonard Paul asked the Mayor and City Council to support proper funding. “We want to continue to do great things for this city, but we need the mayor to financially support us,” Paul said.
Testifying before the Council’s Education Committee, Board of Education Employees Local 372 Executive Vice President Donald Nesbit laid out a set of funding goals to shore up needed services. He said providing for both children and Department of Education (DOE) employees to ensure the highest quality of education in the aftermath of the pandemic is a priority.
Nesbit, a member of the DC 37 Executive Board, told the committee, “The future that an education provides for a child is one of the most important obligations we must fulfill.”
Pointing out that DOE staff, many of whom are on the lowest tier of salaried employees, were essential workers during the pandemic, Nesbit said, “It is important to applaud essential workers, including those represented by Local 372, who risk their own health and safety to perform vital services in these times of crisis.”
For example, when the school system was primarily closed at the height of the pandemic, many of the 9,000 School Lunch Workers and 2,600 School Crossing Guards remained on the job. Unfortunately, these workers were, and still are, at risk of exposure because their responsibilities play an essential role in keeping the wheels of society turning whether schools are open or closed.
Nesbit added that these workers need more than just applause, calling on the Council to provide benefits and protections to help them continue working. He also demanded that the city provide hazard pay to compensate school workers for the risks and sacrifices they continue to make in their work.
He pointed to the fact that School Crossing Guards do not get paid for some holidays and snow days, often losing wages, and demanded that they be equally compensated to other DOE support staff.
“Our workers come in every day. Many work extra hours without pay or outside of their titles to insure that New York City’s students are allowed to succeed,” Nesbit said.
The mayor’s current Executive Budget cuts $1 billion from education from last year’s budget — $30.95 billion compared to $31.97 billion.
During the next several weeks, negotiations will continue between the mayor and the Council until a final budget is agreed upon and approved by the July 1 deadline.