A Review of 2016: A Year of Key Victories for DC 37 Members


Local 372 School Crossing Guard Maria DeLaura speaks at a news conference union headquarters on Jan. 6, 2016. At the conference, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the city’s $15 an hour minimum wage plan, which DC 37 pushed for. DeLaura is flanked by City Council Speader Melissa Mark-Viverito and de Blasio (left) and DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido (right). Photo: Mike Lee.

District Council 37 had a banner year in 2016. Here are some of the union’s achievements.

Insourcing victory: DC 37 is working with the de Blasio to reduce the city’s employment of consultants and bring work in-house. The city has so far hired several hundred information technology workers. The union expects the city to hire up to 1,000 IT workers in the near future.

We won our Fight for $15 campaign: Union members have participated in demonstrations to support food service workers in their struggle for a living wage and union representation.

At home, the union backed Mayor Bill de Blasio’s adoption of a $15 minimum wage that covers 50,000 low-wage workers in the city, including a few thousand school workers in Local 372.

As bargaining for a new contract concluded, the union convinced the City University of New York to match the pay hikes of the state minimum wage law, which will means its low-wage workers — including thousands of DC 37 members — will be paid $15 an hour by the end of 2019.

The union helped stop a total of $800 million in budget cuts at CUNY and public hospitals: The union worked with a coalition to block Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to reduce the state’s support of public hospitals by $300 million. The governor’s plan also called for a $485 million cut at CUNY.

A funding floor for public libraries: DC 37 worked with its four local unions that represent library workers to guarantee the long-term fiscal health of the city’s public libraries. During this year’s budget process, the union pushed for the City Council to agree to “baseline funding,” which establishes a floor for the city’s annual allocation of funds to the city’s three library systems.

The union protected the fiscal health of members’ pensions: DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido, who sits on the board of the New York City Employees’ Retirement System, worked with other trustees to dump NYCERS’s $1.4 billion investment in hedge funds. Hedge funds have high administrative fees, but they have had low-yields in recent years.

DC 37 stopped privatization at the Dept. of Environmental Protection: Action by DC 37, Local 1320 and community groups led DEP to scrap the renewal of its contract with the French conglomerate Veolia to manage the city’s 14 waste-water treatment plants.

DC 37 secured health care for 9/11 workers: The union backed the renewal of the Zadroga Act, which guarantees first responders and workers at Ground Zero lifetime health-care coverage.

Contract settlements: The union wrapped up all of its outstanding economic agreements, as well as its non-economic unit contracts. The settlements were especially sweet for workers at CUNY and many prevailing rate blue-collar workers, whose negotiations on economic agreements were deadlocked for years.

New union services: The union created a new program to help DC 37 members burdened by student loan debt. At workshops, members have learned about ways to reduce their debt significantly.

The pensions of workers at cultural institutions were saved: In tough negotiations, DC 37 reached an agreement with employers that protects and preserves employees’ pensions. The agreement maintains the pension benefit of 9,000 workers, including 1,200 DC 37 members.

A new supervisory tier and better pay at the Board of Education: Local 372 and DC 37 worked together to create a supervisory tier and raise the wages of School Crossing Guards, who now have full-time status and no longer will lose their health insurance during the summer. Local 372 members voted to reduce a wage increase in order to restore benefits for the spouses and domestic partners of retired school workers.

We boosted our membership: This year, the DC 37 membership increased by 4,000. The union’s membership now stands at 125,000, which was the number of members in the union before the downsizing of the Bloomberg administration, which cut 10,000
DC 37 positions during former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s third term.

In 2016, the union welcomed a few hundred new members who were improperly classified as managers. DC 37 did this through a process known as “accretion,” where the union and the city negotiate over the classification of workers. This work could lead to as many as 3,000 members.

The union has pushed for permanent full-time jobs for welfare-to-work program participants.

At the Children’s Village for high-risk youths, workers voted to join DC 37.

DC 37’s headquarters served as a hiring hall for hundreds of applicants for School Crossing Guard jobs.

A changing culture at the union: The field staff, Organizing Dept. and Communications Dept. are the heart of DC 37’s plan to transform the union from a service union to an organizing union.

The Organizing Dept. runs the union’s DC 37/AFSCME Strong project, which calls for 50,000 one-on-one conversations with members, the establishment of worksite Membership Action Teams, and encouraging 10 percent of the membership to contribute the PEOPLE, the political action committee of DC 37’s national union.

One of the goals of DC 37/AFSCME Strong is to reduce the number of agency-fee payers, workers who pay dues but haven’t joined the union. By convincing agency-fee payers to sign the membership card, the union hopes to heighten the workers’ identification with the union. The DC 37/AFSCME Strong project reduced the number of agency-fee payers to 9,000 from 28,000.

During the budget process, Local 1549 successfully campaigned to win funding for hundreds of new positions for civilian workers at the New York Police Dept.

We won full-time positions for provisional workers: Thousands of provisional workers in DC 37 and other titles will become full-time civil servants through union-backed legislation to extend the city’s plan to reduce the ranks of its 23,000 provisional employees.

Justice for improperly-paid school workers: A Board of Education Retirement System audit discovered thousands of school workers were underpaid. DC 37 and Local 372 made sure the workers were paid properly. Members received $3,500 each in back pay and $200 salary increases.

The union deepens community ties: This year, the union created an Office of Community Partnership. The office’s mission is to improve the union’s relationship with the community by forging permanent ties rather than continuing to work in crisis-driven alliances.

Restructuring union headquarters: While addressing a deficit, the union is also working to improve day-to-day operations. This includes reorganizing the field divisions and better use of information technology.                                                     — GREGORY N. HEIRES

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