Breakthrough on CUNY and EMS Contracts

This summer, thousands of DC 37 members will vote on two contracts that call for a pay increase of more than 10 percent.

Henry Garrido

Henry Garrido

The union concluded negotiations for the tentative agreements —which cover more than 3,000 Emergency Medical Service workers and 12,000 DC 37 members at the City University of New York — in early June.

Contract talks had stalled during the administration of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and continued to run into roadblock after roadblock before we were finally able to return to the bargaining table earlier this year to negotiate in earnest. I want to extend my thanks to CUNY and EMS workers for their patience as we negotiated these wage pacts.

Member involvement and activism were key to the agreement we reached with CUNY. Members rallied, signed petitions and organized in the workplace. That level of engagement kept the pressure on.

The contracts are modeled after our 2010-17 economic agreement for about 90,000 members. This was an important achievement because as a union we do our best to make sure members are treated equally. Our insistence on fairness and equity is also what drove us to resist CUNY’s initial effort to impose the terms of the less-rich state workers contract on us.

Like the CUNY and EMS contracts, the DC 37 economic agreement provides for 10.41 percent wage increase, preserves our premium-free health insurance and includes a $200 payment for our welfare fund.

The welfare fund payment is particularly important because it will permanently boost the $1,765 contribution the DC 37 Health and Security Plan receives from the city for each member and retiree. As prescription drug price increases continue to hammer our welfare fund, the new contribution is sorely needed.

The CUNY negotiations, in particular, were among the most difficult the union has ever undertaken.

The talks were complicated because of the university system’s fragile financial condition, a result of the Great Recession, and budget uncertainty.

Another issue is that at CUNY, we bargain directly with the administration while the true holders of the purse strings — the state and city — exert their pressure away from the bargaining table. We thank CUNY Chancellor James B. Milliken for keeping the negotiations process moving, and we also appreciate the role Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie played in helping the administration and us reach a settlement.

Negotiations and the Fight for $15

The raises are pretty much in keeping with what workers are getting around the country. But just as significantly, thousands of CUNY employees who earn less than $15 an hour will have their salaries raised in accordance with New York State’s new minimum wage.

During negotiations, CUNY agreed to cover its workers under the law, which will establish the $15 an hour rate in the city in 2018 and implement it in the rest of the state in 2021.

Combined with the contractual raises, the $15 minimum wage will boost the current pay of many low-wage workers considerably — as much as 25 percent by the end of 2018.

The negotiating process dragged on way too long. But in the end, we succeeded in protecting our benefits and winning a fair pay hike. We ran a model contract campaign that undoubtedly will help the union in future negotiations.

A long, hard journey has come to an end, but the struggle continues.

Henry Garrido is the executive director of DC 37.

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