By DIANE S. WILLIAMS
Cuthbert Dickenson, a passionate activist for workers’ and immigrants’ rights, retired as president of Quasi-Public Employees Local 374.
Dickenson tirelessly represented Local 374 members for five terms. Local 374’s membership includes maintenance, custodial and security workers, Attendant Guards, Instructors, Custodians, Gardeners, Motor Vehicle Operators, Clerical Associates and Secretaries at public botanical gardens; blue-collar workers at the libraries in the Bronx, Manhattan and Staten Island.
Dickenson said he was particularly proud of three major accomplishments during his career of servicing the members of Local 374:
- collaborating with New York Public Library management and the union’s Education Fund to develop a free trades apprenticeship program for Local 374 members who work at New York Public Library.
- unionizing workers at the Wave Hill public garden and cultural center in the Bronx, and
- working with former DC 37 Executive director Lillian Roberts to have Queens Botanical Gardens reinstate Local 374 members’ retirement benefits.
A fierce advocate for libraries and the resources and services they provide, Dickenson teamed with the leaders of other locals that represent library workers in the union’s ongoing fight for fairer funding at annual City Council budget hearings.
Calling for funding to support the city’s three public library systems, Dickenson said, “Every year we have uncertainty related to the budget, but public libraries are part of the educational fabric of New York City and they need stable funding so the young, the old and the in-between can visit, do research and benefit from library services in clean, attractive and well-maintained facilities.”
Cuthbert Dickenson began his civil service career in 1984 as an Electrical Maintainer for the New York Public Library, He was a chapter chair and a union delegate for more than a decade. He served as vice president on the DC 37 Executive Board for eight years, and he chaired the union’s citizenship and Immigration committee.
Realizing early on social media’s potential as an informational source and organizing tool, he was one of the first union leaders to use cyberspace– building a website and social media presence for Local 374.
Attending labor rallies and demonstrations for decades, Dickenson joined Haitians and other New Yorkers in peaceful protest Jan. 15 against President Donald Trump’s most recent slur on immigrants. Dickenson used social media to advance the rally’s message and share photos of the huge turnout.
Dickenson is a member of the DC 37 Caribbean Heritage Committee, the political action screening Committee, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, and he co-chairs the DC 37 New York Public Library Health & Security Plan Trust. He graduated from the Cornell University Labor Leadership program in 2007.
“I thank the DC 37 staff for their hard work and support, the union’s legal department for defending members’ rights, and especially the PEP for getting the members’ stories out,” he said.