About 100 angry D.C. Recreation Department workers marched on department headquarters at 3149 16th St. NW yesterday protesting the layoff of 22 coworkers and the scheduled layoff by March 31 of another 94, all casualties of recent budget cuts by the city government.
Workers staged the protest not only to complain of the reduction-in-force (RIF) procedures but also to call attention to what they say will be the loss of valuable grass-roots level playground workers whose rapport with hundreds of inner-city children has helped the development of many youngsters and kept others out of trouble.
One protestor walked past the front of the recreation department headquarters building holding a colorful placard that said "First Education, Now Recreation." Another's read "Save the children and our jobs."
Juanita Lee, a protest organizer and shop steward for the recreation employes' union, called for the resignation of department director William Rumsey. "Rumsey doesn't care about us one bit," she said. "He hasn't asked for our recommendations about how the department could save money . . . The RIF is supposed to be across the board, but nobody above the DS11 level and nobody below DS7 is being RIFed."
Rumsey acknowledged later that most of the layoffs affect employes in the DS7 to DS10 grades, which include roving leaders, recreation center directors and playground supervisors -- those who work most closely with the city's children. The reason for this, he said, is that those grade levels comprise the bulk of the department's work force. "We have to cut somewhere, so we cut where we can save the most money and lose the least amount of positions," Rumsey said.
The department will lose a total of 147 positions through a combination of RIFs, early retirements and resignations, by March 31. But, Rumsey said, the loss will not affect the quality of recreation services because part-time workers will be hired to replace many of those who are laid off.
"There's no way possible that the cuts won't have an effect," said Larry Kinney, a 12-year supervisory recreation specialist. "When you take away a rec director or a roving leader from a community, you're threatening its stability, because we're a part of our communities. Rumsey does not know what he's doing."