By DIANE S. WILLIAMS
More than 100 members of Motor Vehicle Operators Local 983, went to Albany August 13 to urge state lawmakers to block the proposed layoffs of 22,000 NYC public employees.
“The proposed layoffs will hit some of the lowest-paid municipal workers in New York City,” said Local 983 President Joe Puleo, “the same workers who are essential and on the frontlines in New York City’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Puleo organized the rally for his members to see first-hand the political bureaucracy that goes into saving their jobs.
Local 983 represents more than 3,000 NYC Asbestos Handlers, Assistant City Highway Repairers, City Seasonal Aides, Associate Park Service Workers, Motor Vehicle Operators, Traffic Enforcement Agents Levels 3 & 4, Urban Park Rangers, Associate Urban Park Rangers, High Pressure Plant Tenders, Motor Vehicle Operator Supervisors, Senior Motor Vehicle Supervisors, and Motor Transport Supervisors.
“With the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking financial havoc on governments and the economy, and Mayor Bill de Blasio having to drastically cut the city’s budget to account for billions in lost revenue and with no federal assistance from Washington,” Puleo said, “we need Albany to approve the Mayor’s request for short-term borrowing NOW!”
“We need Albany to give the mayor much needed funding to balance the budget and save essential workers’ jobs,” he added.
Since the pandemic hit in early March and New York City became the epicenter, the Trump Administration and Congress are bickering over how to fund and operate relief programs.
Partisan politics are delaying Congress from passing the HEROES Act that would provide more than $1 trillion of stimulus money to states like New York that were hardest hit by the pandemic.
Other important provisions included in the bill are: protections for essential workers; funding to support the reopening of schools; assistance for millions of jobless Anericans who have lost work during the pandemic, and money to keep the U.S. Postal Service viable.
Puleo said, “While de Blasio had no problem classifying my members and tens of thousands of other unionized City workers as “essential” during the pandemic, meaning they are required to report to work in order to keep New York City operational, and he is constantly praising them for their outstanding service, he appears to be turning his back on them with threats to layoff of 22,000.”
“Now that the mayor needs to cut expenses and find a way to balance his budget, ” Puleo said, “the same municipal workers that he once deemed ‘essential’ will now be deemed ‘expendable.’ ”
“Their jobs — and the security of their families — are about to be put the chopping block,” Puleo said. “This is unacceptable.”
At risk are 22,000 workers, some earn barely earn enough to support their families with soaring rents and food costs, especially since COVID-19.
“Yet again, our political leadership is trying to balance a municipal budget on the backs of the workers who keep government running,” said Puleo. “It does not have to go down that way. Our Governor and state Legistaure can do better. It’s not up to unions to always solve the fiscal problems of New York City. Maybe the Mayor should ask his top-ranking officials to solve the problem and start layoffs at the top, in management, instead of at the bottom.”
Puleo offered an alternative to massive layoffs: offer an early retirement incentive to the estimated 67,000 municipal workers in New York City who reportedly would qualify.
“Once the pandemic hit, so many who were deciding whether to retire took the coronavirus as the sign they needed and are now just waiting on word from the City about an early retrement option,” Puleo said. “If New York City would just think before heading right to layoffs as a first resort, it would save jobs and a lot of aggravation.”