Building Political Power


We played an important role in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s re-election and the defeat of the constitutional convention ballot question, achievements that capped a busy year.

Before sharing some of my concerns about our future challenges, I wish to discuss our political mobilization in some depth because in many ways it captures the spirit of change we want to inculcate at DC 37.

Henry Garrido

Henry Garrido

We worked almost a year on “con con.” We began by providing you with background information on the proposal, which threatened our pensions and right to bargain collectively.

In the summer, we shifted into high gear as volunteer activists from the organizing and the political action departments visited members and retirees in their homes to inform them about the ballot question.

On Election Day, an army of activists also made home visits. The home visits mark a difference in how our union operates. We feel it’s crucial for the union to establish personal contact with members to let them know how the union is fighting for them.

Community partnerships

As we carried out the grassroots outreach, we worked with our political and community allies on the public campaign against the constitutional convention. With other unions and organizations, we set up New Yorkers Against Corruption, which stirred up opposition throughout the state.

So, our con con campaign was two-pronged. We worked with the political group to get the word out publicly and mobilized our members to talk to their family, neighbors, coworkers and friends about the con con threat.

The work met two of the important goals of our long-term plan Leading the Way — raising the visibility of the union and encouraging members to become more active.

By developing community and political ties and organizing at the grassroots, the union will become more dynamic and politically powerful. We want DC 37 to be known in New York as a union that fights for all working families.

As we enter 2018, we are continuing to build spirit of activism at the union. But we face challenges.

In November, we became the first major municipal union to sit down at the table with the city to begin bargaining for a new contract. We are approaching the talks very aggressively with the hope of settling as soon as possible, avoiding protracted negotiations that delay our pay increases.

We are very concerned about the national political scene.

The city’s public hospitals face a $300 million cut at the beginning of 2018. The Trump administration is dramatically reducing its assistance to the New York City Housing Authority, where 15,000 of our members live and thousands of others work.

The U.S. House has passed a budget that would deeply cut Medicaid and other programs, threatening our jobs. And the budget is linked to a tax plan that increases the taxes of many middle class families while providing huge breaks to the 1 percent and corporations.

We will confront major issues next year. But with our experience so far, we’re better prepared to resist.

Henry Garrido is the executive director of District Council 37, AFSCME. This column first appeared in the December 2017 issue of Public Employee Press, the official publication of DC 37.

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