USA Today
June 9, 2004

NYC day care workers join labor walkout


NEW YORK (AP), June 9, 2004 — First, workers caring for the homebound elderly went on strike. Then Wednesday, New Yorkers scrambled to find baby sitters for their children, too, as child care workers began a three-day walkout.

Parents of as many as 50,000 children were affected by the strike at city-subsidized day care centers for low-income families. The workers began picketing Wednesday morning and planned a march across the Brooklyn Bridge.

The union representing 7,000 child care workers is asking for a retroactive 9% increase over 27 months.

"I can appreciate what they (day care workers) are doing, but now we're in a bind," said parent Robin Batson, 42, who takes her 2-year-old son to a center in Manhattan.

Also Wednesday, thousands of home health care workers began the third and last day of their own walkout. They are demanding raises to $10 per hour from an average of about $7.

If those weren't enough headaches for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, thousands of members of the police, fire and teachers' unions rallied Tuesday outside City Hall to demand raises, some carrying signs that read "No Way to Treat Heroes."

The noisy protest, which stretched for several blocks, disrupted evening traffic. Among the celebrities present were actors Alec Baldwin and Steve Buscemi, a former firefighter. There were no arrests.

"After 9/11 ... they said, 'We will never forget,'" Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch told the rally. "Ladies and gentlemen, I'm sorry to stand here and report that they have forgotten."

The PBA was joined by the United Federation of Teachers and the Uniformed Firefighters Association in the City Hall Park gathering Tuesday.

Bloomberg said the city simply cannot afford to offer municipal unions raises greater than the contract agreed to by the city's largest union, District Council 37.

Bloomberg's administration has no direct negotiating role in the health and child care union contracts, but the city announced that parents who use the 350 affected day care centers would be reimbursed for the cost of replacement child care.

"We will arrange for some alternate care for the children, including picking up the tab for it," Bloomberg said.

Fatima Golden, a bookkeeper at the a day care center in Brooklyn, said she earns about $28,000 a year, compared with as much as $40,000 that workers with similar skills earn in the private sector.

Parents at Educare Early Childhood Center in Manhattan on Tuesday were generally supportive of child care workers, despite the scheduling problems it will cause.

"This is a terrible thing," said Janet Rodriguez, whose three children use the day care center. "It hurts me just as much as it hurts them. I'm actually going to take tomorrow off and hope for the best."