By JOE LOPEZ
The troublesome political climate of our nation and the imminent threat to labor were the topics of conversation for the 260 activists, staff and politicians who gathered at Union Headquarters on Feb. 4 at the 16th Annual NYC Clerical-Administrative Employees Local 1549 Advocacy and Political Action Conference.
Coordinated by Local 1549 2nd Vice President Ralph Palladino, the conference included guest speakers included Rev. Terrence Melvin, Secretary-Treasurer of the New York State AFL-CIO and President of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, and NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.
“We have a lot of work to do and we are the right people in the right place at the right time to do it,” said a fired-up Rev. Melvin. Referring to Donald Trump as a “monster of a problem,” he said that it was now time to fight and make sure his stay in the White House is short.
The laundry list of grievances against Trump include his cabinet appointments. According to a recent article in US News & World Report, his choice for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, “has never attended, worked in nor sent her children to public schools. She has no government experience and no experience running or managing a bureaucracy or large organization. Instead, DeVos has spent much of her adulthood donating millions to politicians so that she can in turn lobby them to support her favorite pet cause: vouchers that give money to conservative religious schools with zero strings attached.”
Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Labor, Andrew Puzder, proved to be so untrustworthy that he withdrew from consideration. Puzder is a fast-food CEO whose company has faced several class-action lawsuits on wage theft.Melvin highlighted the importance of continuing to discuss the decisions coming from Washington that effect everything from healthcare to collective bargaining. “Only through open dialogue can we make sense of the insanity that has gripped this country,” he said.
“The more educated we are about what is happening, the more powerful we are,” said DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido. He spoke about the immediate threats that many may not know about, such as the upcoming vote for a New York State Constitutional Convention, that, if approved, could threaten workers’ rights across the board.
Local 1549 and DC 37 President Eddie Rodriguez made clear that the danger isn’t just to those working right now, but to the protections and benefits that the next generation would have.
“Trump and his cronies are after our children,” he said. “Together, we are going to fight back and make sure the labor movement never dies.”
“Our candidate may not have gotten into the White House, but as long as we stand strong together, we will always win,” said Local 1549 First Vice President Alma Roper to the impassioned members. In addition to voicing concerns about the issues at hand, members were also asked to share ideas for how to strengthen the union overall during an “open mic” portion of the day. There were also presentations highlighting the various fightbacks that DC 37 is involved with, as well as programs such as PEOPLE.