N.Y. School Aides' Union and City Hall Clash Over Layoffs

Courtney Williams's picture
Friday, October 7, 2011

With more than 700 school aides facing their last day at work on Friday barring a last-minute deal, the Bloomberg administration is blaming the school aides’ powerful labor union, District Council 37, for not doing enough to prevent the layoffs.

The administration’s push to assign blame underlines its strained relationship with the union and its executive director, Lillian Roberts. She said she held Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg responsible for the layoffs, calling them “outrageous” and “totally unnecessary,” and she has emphasized that they would disproportionately hit the city’s lowest-paid workers and poorest school districts.

As so often happens in labor disputes, especially when there is bad blood between labor and management, the two sides present vastly different views of events.

City officials maintain that they were forced to order the layoffs, which have upset many parents, because Ms. Roberts was the chief obstacle to a deal proposed last spring that would have used more than $200 million from a multi-union health fund to help plug a budget hole. City officials say all the other municipal unions were ready to accept such a deal.

“We gave D.C. 37 every opportunity to avoid this situation months ago, and they rejected our proposals,” said Howard Wolfson, deputy mayor for governmental affairs.

Dennis M. Walcott, the schools chancellor, voiced regret about the layoffs, which would include school aides, parent coordinators and other members of school support staffs at nearly 350 schools across the city.

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