Update from President DiClemente (10-20-20) - RE: Recent Lay-offs and Future Concerns

Update from President DiClemente (10-20-20) - RE: Recent Lay-offs and Future Concerns
October 20, 2020

Dear Colleagues:  

Thanks to everyone who came out to the rally last Thursday at the Firefighters union hall in an effort to encourage the District to provide health care for the BENTE members who have been laid off. 

The union fought as hard as it could to prevent any layoffs in school security and school food services and we proposed several solutions to keep them all employed. Instead, the Board of Education voted to lay off 219 BENTE members, citing furloughs as a viable financial option and providing health care as a way to lessen the pain. We responded to their original furlough proposal, which gave the District sole authority to discontinue the furlough agreement by simply notifying these employees by October 30, 2020. These members already receive health insurance through the end of October – in other words, the District proposed something that they were already contractually obligated to do and tried to write it off as a viable furlough agreement. 

We sent the District a furlough proposal of our own, which included the following language: 

  • Furloughs should be offered on a voluntary basis first, then by seniority 
  • Furloughed employees can take a personal day or illness day on Friday, October 16 (Members were laid off on Thursday, October 15 so they are not paid for Friday, October 16) 
  • The District shall not reduce BENTE positions beyond their current levels at the time of the furlough and vacancies will be filled as they arise 
  • Furloughed members will not be required to pay the 15% or 5% contribution to their health care premiums 

Contrary to what the administration is peddling, the DISTRICT rejected our offer in its entirety via e-mail, without discussion, and then withdrew their own proposal (see attached).  

Bottom Line: The Union believes that health care is a human right. The District doesn’t want to pay for it. 

Federal unemployment assistance no longer exists, meaning those laid off can only collect state unemployment insurance, which makes it even more difficult for them to pay for their health insurance premiums. Out of the 219 people laid off, 88 receive health insurance through the District at a total cost to the district of $95,000 per month. 

The 89 food service workers who remain employed were displaced from their locations, had their hours slashed, and were demoted from their title. We filed a grievance on their behalf, along with an Improper Practice Charge against the District. This is not the way you treat people in passing, let alone those who have many years of dedicated service to this community. And these are the people who risked their own health to come in and feed children throughout the first wave of the pandemic. 

Tonight, the Chief Financial Officer has vowed to propose 20 percent budget reductions at the Finance Committee meeting, even though there is little chance that Governor Cuomo will reduce funding to that degree. We do not yet know what this means for support staff.  

I will be following up as soon as I receive new information. 

In Solidarity,  

Dan DiClemente, President  

BENTE/AFSCME Local 2419  

“The Support Staff that Supports Students”    

If you have an issue or comment, please do not hesitate to e-mail me directly at dan@bentelocal2419.org.  

Furlough Withdrawal
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