by G.L. Tyler | January 30, 2013
Every Monday afternoon, Raglan George, Jr., sandwiches himself between two picket signs with slogans like “New York City working families need child care,” then makes his way back and forth in front of New York City Hall.
He calls it his One-Man March for Child Care, and he’s been doing it ever since Mayor Michael Bloomberg implemented his harmful Early Learn Program last fall.
Known as “Rags,” the DC 1707 executive director and AFSCME International vice president is starting to get some company on his picket line. In recent weeks, New York City Council members lined up with him, as did supporters from the New York City Central Labor Council and the New York State AFL-CIO.
On his weekly marches, George exposes Early Learn’s multiple flaws. Early Learn was implemented without a pilot program, environmental impact study or a hearing from the City Council. Some 5,000 children were immediately removed from the program. The city recently revealed that another 5,000 eligible children will not receive services because more than 70 of Bloomberg’s handpicked vendors could not pass muster with the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
Until Bloomberg came into office 11 years ago, New York City’s comprehensive child care network was acclaimed, and it included day care, Head Start and an extensive after-school program.
Under Early Learn, the mayor yanked kindergarten classes out of day care centers, and now the city’s kindergartens have waitlists. More than 1,000 unionized day care center workers and Head Start workers were fired under Bloomberg. The city refuses to pay back wages that may total between $10 million to 15 million for both terminated and employed workers. Many of the vendors selected as replacements for the fired staff had no child care experience.
George says he’ll be marching for the duration of the fight. Bloomberg’s term ends in late 2013 and he looks forward to electing a new mayor who understands the needs of the city’s children and the rights of workers.
G.L. Tyler is DC 1707’s Political Director.