Thursday, June 10, 2004

Day care workers join NYC protests

By Timothy Williams
The Associated Press

NEW YORK - First, workers caring for the homebound elderly went on strike. Then Wednesday, New Yorkers scrambled to find baby sitters for their children, too, as child care workers began a three-day walkout.

Parents of as many as 50,000 children were affected by the strike at city-subsidized day care centers for low-income families. The workers began picketing Wednesday morning.

The union representing 7,000 child care workers is asking for a retroactive 9 percent increase over 27 months.

"I can appreciate what they (day care workers) are doing, but now we're in a bind," said parent Robin Batson, 42, who takes her 2-year-old son to a center in Manhattan.

Also Wednesday, thousands of home health care workers began the third and last day of their own walkout. They are demanding raises to $10 per hour from an average of about $7.

If those weren't enough headaches for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, thousands of members of the police, fire and teachers' unions rallied Tuesday outside City Hall to demand raises, some carrying signs that read "No Way to Treat Heroes."

The noisy protest, which stretched for several blocks, disrupted evening traffic. Among the celebrities present were actors Alec Baldwin and Steve Buscemi, a former firefighter. There were no arrests.

"After 9/11 ... they said, We will never forget,' " Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch told the rally. "Ladies and gentlemen, I'm sorry to stand here and report that they have forgotten."

The PBA was joined by the United Federation of Teachers and the Uniformed Firefighters Association in the City Hall Park gathering Tuesday.

Bloomberg said the city cannot afford municipal unions raises greater than the contract agreed to by the city's largest union.

Bloomberg's administration has no direct negotiating role in the health and child care union contracts, but the city announced that parents who use the 350 affected day care centers would be reimbursed for the cost of replacement child care.

Fatima Golden, a bookkeeper at the a day care center in Brooklyn, said she earns about $28,000 a year, compared with as much as $40,000 that workers with similar skills earn in the private sector.

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