Stronger Together: Parks Employees Organize for Collective Impact

Local 1505 President Dilcy Benn (center) with Madonna Knight and union reps who helped hundreds of Parks employees join DC 37. Parks employees gather for union orientation.


As part of the union’s organizing blitz, DC 37 representatives recently signed up more than 700 Parks employees at agency orientation and training meetings.

“This initiative helps us educate new hires about the union,” said Madonna Knight, associate director of DC 37’s Parks, Cultural, and Higher Education Division. “We are successfully engaging full-time Parks employees and enrolling them in DC 37 the day they start.”

“I sat down with the division leaders to talk about having Parks workers sign union membership cards — and they listened,” said Dilcy Benn, Local 1505 President. “My grievance rep Eugene Williams’ research was very helpful in getting this off the ground.”

The membership drive ran from October through December, and resumed in January.

Parks employees gather for union orientation.

Parks employees gather for union orientation.

“President Benn and Madonna Knight led the team of reps that identified new hires and nonmembers in each borough, and it’s working!” said David Boyd, Director of DC 37’s Parks, Culturals, and Higher Education Division.

“I worked with the Parks deputy commissioner to reach the newest hires and employees in DC 37 titles who were not union members,” Knight said.

Twice a week, the Parks Department holds new employee orientations at the Flushing Training Center in Queens. Benn and Knight are present with a team that includes Williams and Council Reps Corey McCaskey and Viviana Santiago. They meet with Parks workers and jobs training participants to present information on DC 37 services. A Q&A session follows and Parks workers share their experiences as DC 37 members.

“It’s important for new hires to meet me and the rest of the division leadership face-to-face. I let them know what their union dues pay for and that the union is here for them,” Benn said. “Our message is: ‘Together we are stronger!’”

Knight said that since October 2022, 100% of Parks’ 425 new hires have signed DC 37 membership cards.

While the majority of workers are in Local 1505, others are in Motor Vehicle Operators Local 983 and Parks Gardeners Local 1507.

Other than job security, a pension, and medical and dental benefits, DC 37 provides services such as GED courses and housing programs. MELS provides no-cost legal representation in child custody, divorce, bankruptcy, housing court, and citizenship applications to union members.

“When new employees hear about all the services and benefits DC 37 offers and our power at City Hall, in Albany, and in Washington, their eyes light up. They understand the value of coming together and belonging to a union and they immediately sign the green cards,” Knight said.

The reps also reach out to Parks workers who are not members, urging them to join DC 37.

“Parks management helped us locate about 540 workers,” Knight said. “The overwhelming majority signed union membership cards.”

“This reflects a new nationwide trend,” Benn said. “More and more workers are organizing themselves and coming together in labor unions. We are a growing movement for better work conditions and better wages.

“If you work for the Parks Department and have not signed a DC 37 green card, call me,” Benn added. “Don’t miss the opportunity to be part of something big.”

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