Organized by a coalition of union groups, the rally lasted for two hours and featured a number of City Council members and labor advocates.
“It’s about what kind of city we want to be,” said Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. “Do we want to be a city that only caters to the top 1 percent or do we want to be a city that recognizes we all should have a seat at the budget table, not just this year but every year?” Stringer said.
“We certainly do not need daycare on the cheap, which is what the mayor’s revised proposal is all about,” he said.
The mayor’s initial budget proposal called for $91 million in cuts to child care, but last week he announced plans to restore $40 million of the cuts, in an effort to preserve spots for all children currently in the system. But the rally’s organizers still railed against those cuts.
Attendees of the rally–by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which is a part of the AFL-CIO–also expressed concern that new child care workers will be non-unionized.
Reverend Al Sharpton had been scheduled to speak, but did not attend due to a meeting in Washington. Reverend Clifton Miller, a colleague from the National Action Network, pointed out hypocrisy on the mayor’s part.
“We have known and we have discovered in the past that in the midst of a budget crisis the city can find money for what it wants to find money for,” Miller said. “Tell me how you can find $4 million to rename the Queensboro Bridge after Ed Koch and you can’t find money to keep our daycare centers open!”
AFSCME Secretary Treasurer Lee Saunders also pointed to the Mayor’s budgetary tactics as an area of concern.
“In his latest budget proposal [Bloomberg] says that he’s found the money to save some child care slots that were on the chopping block, but we have a simple question: How are you saving child care slots when you’re cutting more than half the money in the programs that provide those services? That makes too much sense,” Saunders said.
Much of the crowd was made up of child care workers and their students, toting homemade signs and peanut butter sandwiches. At least twelve City Council members were in attendance, including Margaret Chin, a former child care worker, who now represents part of lower Manhattan.
“Everyone should share the pain, and the ones that can afford it, they should pay more,” Chin said. “I’m sick and tired of playing this game! Daycare should never be on the budget cut table. It’s government’s responsibility to provide and educate our children!”
The deadline for the city’s budget is June 30.
Council member Charles Barron said that the protests won’t stop until the funding is back in full.
“If he messes with our children, the next demonstration will be at his house!” Barron said. “The next demonstration is going to be in City Hall! We will bring Egypt to New York City!”