Fenty’s Strategy: Cut City Services, Attack District Workers?

rnrnOn Thursday, November 20th the DC Workers’ Rights Board will be holding a hearing at the DC City Council on the impact of the proposed budget cuts on public services. The hearing will examine recent attacks on public workers in city agencies ranging from mental health to public schools. Community leaders, workers, parents, students and city administrators will testify. The Mayor, City Council and Chancellor have been invited to participate.rnrn“This hearing will give the public a chance to voice their concerns about the direction of city spending and the finger pointing at city workers for government’s systemic problems,” said Rev. Raymond Bell, Pastor, First Rising Mt. Zion Baptist Church and a member of the Workers Rights Board. The hearing is free and open to the public. rnrnHELP MAKE THIS HEARING A SUCCESS!rnrn1. Come out to the hearing. There will be an opportunity to submit your questions to workers, students, community leaders and city officials beforehand.rn2. Print out the flyer and circulate to your networks.rn3. Sign up to volunteer!rnrnrnWHAT’S THE STORY?rnrnJust days after news of the tragic death of Banita Jacks’ four children hit DC’s headlines, Mayor Adrian Fenty fired six social workers at the Child and Family Services Agency. The firings, undertaken without any investigation or due process, were a last-ditch attempt to to secure voters’ confidence by scapegoating workers. Last month DC’s arbitrator concluded that the workers had been fired unjustly and ordered the city to reinstate them with back pay and benefits. But for many workers at the CFSA this decision comes too late. “The firings around the Jacks case created a climate of fear at the agency,” said former CFSA investigator and member of AFSCME Council 20.rnrn”Social workers were terrified that at any moment Fenty would turn around scapegoat the for deeper, structural problems. Workers began to leave in droves while reported cases reached unprecedented highs, straining an already underresourced agency. The truth is that since I started working at CFSA in 2005, we never had enough resources. We had more cases than was allowed by law, chronic backlogs, a shortage of agency cars and food vouchers to give struggling families. After the Jacks incident my caseload trippled to 52 and I simply couldn’t investigate every report. Instead I was forced to prioritize some cases over others, which resulted in the tragic death of a young child. By law we cannot have more than 12, but if a social worker refused to take a case, we were reprimanded. CFSA is on a downward spiral and it’s up to DC residents to do something about it.”rnrnChild and Family Service is not the only city service undermined by Fenty’s high-profile scapegoating. This summer, the city announced that 60 principals and assistant principals would not be reappointed in the new school year. With no job and no access to unemployment benefits many administrators were forced to retire early. Simultaneously, the city fired 450 classroom aides without cause, further disrupting the academic process and creating a shortfall for this academic year.rnrn“I was a teachers’ aide for 23 years,” said Loretta Archie, AFSCME Council 20 member. “Then Rhee appointed a new principal who unilaterally re-categorized us as instructional employees and obliged us to take the No Child Left Behind-mandated test. On August 12th I was told that I didn’t meet the qualifications– qualifications that bear little relevance to my everyday work – and I was laid off with no opportunity to retake the test or possibility of training.” This year the Fenty administration laid off around 450 unionized teachers’ aides, and has replaced them with contracted workers instead.”rnrn”Rhee was brought in to break the union,” added Harold Cox, a former DCPS teacher and WTU member. “After dedicating 21 years to working with students I was fired without due process. Like hundreds of other summarily-dismissed teachers, I was forced to reapply for my position. But the re-hiring was merely a ploy to strong-arm teachers to make concessions such as extending teaching hours, that the union has fought off for years.” rnrnSince coming into power, Fenty’s administration has scapegoated union workers for problems which are structural in nature in an attempt to undermine the public sector and set the stage for outsourcing work and city funds to private companies . Currently, 20 percent of the city’s budget goes to contractors and this number is expected to rise. Last month Fenty announced that he was going to privatize the endire DC CSA Mental Health Department departement, which will affect 4,000 patients and hundreds of social workers, mental health specialists and other CSA employees who work with DC residents with mental health problems. rnrn“I call it Project Trojan Horse—short sighted, based on inaccurate data, and will have devastating effects on DC families,” says Cherylyn Pipkin, DC CSA clinical social worker and SEIU 1199 member. “We know that the city is facing difficult times and needs to save money but a patchwork of private programs cannot replace a safety net that we have created for the members of our community who need services.” These actions fit into a national and international trend of forcing structural adjustments that undermine public services and public employees. rnrnFor more information contact Rcastel@dclabor.org or 202.974.8281.rnrn

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