Page 7 - Work Force July-August 2020
P. 7

‘Slap in the face during the pandemic:’ city workers fight layoffs
 LONG BEACH — The COVID-19 pandemic has led to financial difficulties for many communities across the state, including the City of Long Beach, where essential services are at stake.
Recently, 22 CSEA City of Long Beach Unit members were laid off for budgetary reasons, but our union is fighting back.
Never the kind to take poor treatment lying down, unit members are rolling out a methodic plan to seek justice.
“The budget cuts that happened were placed almost solely on the backs of CSEA [members],” said CSEA City of Long Beach Unit President John Mooney. “Rather than gather outside of City Hall, we decided to hold a drive-thru rally in order to be safe during the pandemic.”
And what a rally it was.
About 130 cars lined up in front of the CSEA City of Long Beach Unit office to launch the socially distant rally, held right before the city council’s vote on the budget.
Participating members drove
past the homes of Long Beach City Council members while the blaring sound of CSEA members’ car horns echoed through the streets. The city council was also practicing social distancing by holding a virtual board meeting.
Unit members used an electronic truck, drones and megaphones to capture the attention of the city council and community members.
“We’re not going to let COVID stop us from fighting,” said Mooney. “We did a Facebook Live [broadcast] of the rally that had over 4,000 views and 100 shares. We definitely sent
a message to the city council that we’re here and we’re fighting through the pandemic.”
Unit members felt they needed
to address the city council directly because the council voted in favor of layoffs. The council also decides whether the layoffs will be targeted or evenly distributed across the board. This council decided to place the weight of layoffs squarely on the backs of CSEA members.
In addition to the drive-thru rally, CSEA City of Long Beach
From left, Staten Island DDSO President Jeanette Mitchell, 2nd Vice President Danny Coston, Treasurer Rondell Radcliffe and grievance representative Mollie Soko received hundreds of face shields, generously donated by Shields for Heroes.
James Hodge and Greg Webster are ready for the drive thru-rally. (Photos provided by City of Long Beach Unit President John Mooney.)
 Russell Mascoll, a beach maintenance supervisor at the City of Long Beach, is among the members who are preparing to start the drive-thru rally near the City of Long Beach Unit Office.
July-August 2020
Unit members sent emails to city council members, sent letters to the governor, the county executive and even the president of the United States to urge for aid to save these vital services.
Lastly, the unit filed a class action grievance on behalf of its laid off members.
The impact of losing 22 of his union brothers and sisters to budget cuts has had a deep emotional impact on Mooney.
“The last three months have
felt like three years,” said Mooney. “It angers me and it frustrates me that the city would do this to our members during a pandemic. It breaks our hearts that amongst the 22 members who were laid off were two women on maternity leave, two people out on injuries, a member who was out due to COVID and a veteran,” said Mooney. “That is the ultimate slap in the face during this pandemic.”
CSEA City of Long Beach Unit members have a history of going out of their way to work with the city during difficult financial times.
In 2012, the unit agreed to
concessions because of the city’s $12 million deficit. More recently, unit members were working with city officials to avoid layoffs by finding other areas in the budget where cuts could be made.
As it stands, the City of Long Beach is at 2004 staffing levels, which will have a largely negative impact on important programs that provide daycare, youth sports programs and other recreational activities for city residents.
After experiencing the impact
of budgetary layoffs, the unit has seen first-hand why fighting for New York’s fair share of federal aid is important.
“CSEA has 300,000 members across New York state,” said Mooney. “If every member sends an email, a text or uses social media
to reach out to our senators and [congressional representatives], it would push our representatives to act. It’s our job as union members to make sure our representatives are accountable to us. That is why we continue to push.”
— Wendi Bowie
 The Work Force 7

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