By HENRY GARRIDO
The new budget is a significant step forward for the city and the union.
Our achievements resulted from our strong presence in the budget process. For months, we talked up our agenda — and this effort paid off.
I am proud of our campaign and want to thank those of you who participated. We also appreciate the City Council and the de Blasio administration’s support for a progressive budget.
The union’s mobilization campaign included news conferences; our annual City Council breakfast; rallies; visits to City Council members and discussions with Mayor Bill de Blasio; the testimony and attendance of local leaders, staff and members at the City Council, and coverage by our own newspaper, social media, and radio and TV shows.
We don’t regard our budget activity as merely protecting our jobs. The budget is an expression of our vision of the role of government in society.
Strengthening our public services
Our desire is to preserve and strengthen government services to lift up the downtrodden and improve the lives of middle-class families.
The new funding for universal school lunch points to the important role government plays in our society.
This is what it means for our children:
● an additional 475,000 children will receive a free lunch at their schools,
● nine out of 10 public schools will now offer free lunches, and
● free lunches will be available for 84 percent of public school students.
The universal free lunch program will guarantee that thousands of poor schoolchildren will have at least one nutritious meal a day. These meals should also help students perform better in the classroom. That’s a guarantee they lacked. The budget also earmarks $12.1 million to expand the Breakfast in Classrooms program to 303 more schools.
Our city’s kids will be happy to learn that pools and beaches will be open for an extra week. Their parents and other adults will be pleased that our parks will be cleaner and more attractive thanks to the funding for 150 seasonal Parks Workers and 50 Gardeners.
Supporting the city’s libraries
This $85.2 billion budget for 2018 is good news for the city’s three public library systems. The local presidents who represent library employees worked with our Political Action and Legislation Dept. to push for the maintenance of a funding floor that continues from year to year, bringing fiscal stability to the library systems.
The budget also includes $100 million for capital improvements for libraries.
We also fought for capital funding for the New York City Housing Authority, where 15,000 of our members live and 1,000 work. The new budget provides $1.3 billion over the next 10 years for roof repairs.
This new funding is especially important as it comes when the Trump administration looks to make deep cuts in public housing.
While budget cuts may be coming from Washington, D.C., this city budget shows New York City’s commitment to an expansive government that maintains the quality of life for its 8 million residents.
In New York City, we want to protect — not gut — government services.
This story previously appeared in the July-August 2017 issue of Public Employee Press.
The DC 37 Blog is an online publication of District Council 37, AFSCME, which represents 126,000 municipal employees in New York City.