Updated 10/05/2011 12:16 AM
Largest City Labor Union Protests Planned School Aide Layoffs
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Unless there is a reprieve, proposed cuts will put about 700 school aides out of work by the end of the week, and on Tuesday their union, DC37, voiced objections outside the Department of Education headquarters in Lower Manhattan. NY1's Education reporter Lindsey Christ filed the following report.
Nanette Sepulveda works in a homeless shelter, helping children navigate the school system. It is her 14th year working for the Department of Education, but on Friday, she's set to lose her job.
"We're a bridge between the school and the shelter, so they are able to feel comfortable," said Sepulveda.
Workers rallied Tuesday against the cuts, which would be the largest from one city agency under Mayor Michael Bloomberg. They were joined by the "Occupy Wall Street" protesters.
The two groups said they share a common goal, protecting workers' jobs.
School aides staff offices, monitor hallways and serve as parent coordinators. The jobs on the chopping block are concentrated in certain schools, many in low-income neighborhoods.
"Our school serves 1,100 children, pre-k to fifth grade. We have six entrances to the building, which school aides protect. We now will have none, because six of them are being laid off," said parent Miriam Aristy-Farer. "We lost a security guard, and it's West Harlem. Our neighborhood is suffering.
Planned teacher layoffs were averted in June, after the teacher's union struck a deal with City Hall. The mayor said then that other unions that had not made concessions might see cuts.
The school aides belong to the city's largest labor union, DC37. Union leaders said the layoffs are political payback for not making big concessions in June.
City Council members said these layoffs will put hundreds of additional low-income New Yorkers out of work.
"They are mostly women of color. The inequality in our city, unfortunately, is growing by leaps and bounds and these individuals do not want to be on the unemployment line," said Brooklyn Councilwoman Letitia James.
"There is a disproportionate impact in struggling schools and communities of color," said Brooklyn Assemblyman Karim Camara.
DOE officials said individual principals cut these positions from their school budgets, and the central office is not going to force principals to change their spending plans.
But City Council members, union officials, parents and the school aides themselves were all still hoping for a last-minute deal.