Child Care Workers' Union Continues Lawsuit Against Fenty Administration
(WASHINGTON) – This week, the American Federation of Government Employees Local 2741, which represents child care workers in the DC Department of Parks and Recreations, filed a motion for reconsideration of a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against the District of Columbia government. The union claims that DC Mayor Adrian Fenty ignored statutory requirements when his administration moved to eliminate the child care services division of DPR.
In its motion for reconsideration the union argues that the Fenty administration violated the law and by proceeding with a privatization actions without the consent of the D.C. City Council. D.C. law requires that prior to awarding a privatization contract the Mayor must report to the Council with a determination that demonstrates the privatization will save the District at least 5 percent of the duration of the contract. D.C. Code § 2-301.05b (2009).
Likewise, AFGE Local 2741 argues that as part of the privatization process, the Mayor must make efforts to assist those government workers affected. These efforts shall include consulting with union representatives and government workers and providing prior notification of at least 30 days of any adverse impact of the privatization. These laws were clearly designed to protect workers’ rights and to ensure public accountability, particularly in these very sensitive economic times when unemployment has risen from 7.2% in 2008 to 11.1% in 2009 in the District of Columbia.
“We contend that the District developed a systematic scheme to eradicate an award winning government-operated daycare and child development program, in order to eliminate DPR’s program and corresponding 165 day care positions,” said Ben Butler, president of AFGE Local 2741. “Their actions also leave untold economically eligible families and single mothers without affordable child care alternatives.”
Again, AFGE Local 2741 argues that the law requires that displacing government workers requires the participation of the D.C. City Council. The union claims, the Fenty administration’s defiant violation of applicable law caused the significant elimination of all day care jobs in the DPR. It further caused a defacto reorganization of DPR’s child care program and the simultaneous eradication of the union in that government unit. In court the Fenty administration admitted that it had awarded the United Planning Organization (“UPO”) eight DPR recreation sites for the specific purpose of child care for up to 200 children. A discourse on the form of payment was had at the hearing and it is clear that the District will pay UPO through a “provider agreement” for its services.
Earlier this summer, DPR management moved to eliminate the Office of Educational Services. Representatives of the agency have claimed that the elimination of child care services is due to a $4 million deficit. However, in a letter dated August 17, 2009, Eric Goulet, the Council’s Budget Director insisted that there were sufficient funds in the Office of the State Superintendent of Education budget to finance these jobs. The resulting conclusion is that either the monies were depleted without explanation or Council approval or that the money is in fact available, but the administration has ulterior motives to privatize a successfully publically administered program.
Likewise, in June 2009 the Council of the District of Columbia passed Bill 18-275, the “Day Care Facility Emergency Act of 2009” by a 13-0 vote and expressly prohibited the Executive Branch from issuing bids for daycare services that are offered by DPR. Rather than comply with the law, the D.C. Attorney General, Peter Nickles, condemned the Council’s action, challenging the law. Since that time, the administration has ignored the actions of the Council and moved forward, privatizing the department’s daycare function through a contract with the United Planning Organization. According to union members, the administration has said contractor will replace their duties within the same time frame.
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 750,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia.