With Mayor Bill de Blasio threatening to lay off 22,000 municipal workers amid the city’s ongoing budget crisis, labor unions are shaking their fists at City Hall – and the federal government — warning that they will take their complaints to the polls on Election Day.
Several hundred workers and labor leaders scorned the de Blasio administration Thursday for recognizing the sacrifices of EMTs, parol officers, Department of Corrections staff and more at the time when COVID-19 had the city at a standstill back in March and April — but then announcing this week that job cuts were needed to balance the budget.
Henry Garrido, the Executive Director of District Council 37 and also the largest municipal union in the city, explained at a Thursday rally in Foley Square how members continued work in the pandemic often without personal protective equipment; as a result, 151 of their 125,000 members died.
“Thousands of [city workers] got sick, thousands of them are still sick and they were called heroes… and how do they get rewarded? with 22,000 layoffs. Pink slips,” Garrido said. “The federal government has failed to do its job to fund the front lines, we will remember in November… We know the city’s in financial trouble, nobody’s denying that, but a budget is a matter of priorities. If you care for workers, you make sure they’re properly funded.”
According to Garrido, DC37 had proposed a retirement incentive program reckoned to save the city up to $1 billion and is lobbying Albany legislators to approve Mayor de Blasio’s request to borrow money to close the budget gap about $5 billion. But the union only wants credit to be used on keeping workers employed.
City Comptroller Scott Stringer – who is also mulling a 2021 run for mayor – said that the de Blasio administration had incorrect figures in determining that 22,000 layoffs were necessary. He opposed the layoffs which he said impact people of color, low income, women with kids. He would like the city to continue the so-far fruitless pursuit of federal funds despite the last stimulus being the CARES Act in the beginning of April.
“I watch the money for the city and I can tell you the numbers are wrong,” Stringer said at the podium.
Then, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams took to the mic.
“We’re in the fight of our lives,” Adams said. “We are going to fight to ensure all the essential employees get all the essential things they need just like the city could get what they needed from those of us who were essential.”
De Blasio, during his morning press availability, responded to a question from The New York Times asking if increasing debt to spare jobs and services was the best course of action at this time considering the city’s deficits.
“If we don’t have basic services that are strong, we’re not going to be able to bring back our economy as well, and actually amplify our revenue and strengthen our revenue, speed our recovery. Also, if you go to layoffs, you’re putting more families in a horrible place. You’re putting people out of work. We want to avoid that at all costs,” de Blasio said. “So, my argument is, look, anyone who tries to make – you have not, but I’m saying people would like to immediately jump to the 1970s and compare to 40 or 50 years ago, fundamentally misunderstand how strong New York City is today, how strong we were as recently as February – again, all-time high in jobs. We have a very extraordinary, really, economic profile, diverse, strong economy at this point that will come back. But if we don’t invest in keeping City services strong, it will actually hinder that comeback. That is what I fundamentally believe.”
The city will need state authorization before taking out any lines of credit on saving the budget, and some state lawmakers say they will not vote to authorize it until the layoffs are taken entirely off the table.