By MIKE LEE
In a landslide vote of 97.7%, District Council 37 members ratified the 2021-2026 citywide economic agreement with the City of New York. This 65-month-and-12-day financial agreement provides City workers their first pay raise since 2019 while continuing premium-free health care for members and retirees.
More than half of all eligible DC 37 members participated in the ratification vote conducted by the third-party American Arbitration Association (AAA), which was tabulated on March 31.
“We thank our members for showing their confidence in this union,” said Henry Garrido, DC 37 Executive Director. “These were the most difficult negotiations we’ve experienced in decades, and we fought hard to secure a contract that provides fair compensation for city workers and support for the new challenges they face on the job and at home.”
Major Progress on Wages, Telework, Child Care
The contract includes five compounded pay increases totaling 16.21%, with retroactive pay to the first date of the agreement and a $3,000 ratification bonus. The contract also raises the minimum rate for city jobs to $18 per hour.
In a significant concession by the City, the new contract establishes a Flexible Work Committee tasked to create sensible policies for a workplace irrevocably changed by the COVID-19 pandemic. On June 1, the Committee announced a telework pilot program, and will continue to develop additional recommendations for the City’s public workforce, including compressed and flex schedules.
The City also agreed to create a Pandemic Response Joint Committee with the union to address future communicable disease outbreaks. The Committee’s mandate is to improve policies and procedures, assess vaccines and testing policies, and focus more on mental health programs for public workers. The City will work to address quality-of-air concerns at worksites through HVAC maintenance and proper ventilation. The contract also guarantees the City will supply Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and inspections of PPE stock.
Thanks to the contract win, a much-needed Child Care Trust Fund will be administered by the union to assist members with child care expenses. With an annual budget of $3 million, the fund may be set up similarly to the DC 37 Education Fund, with a Board of Trustees and an Administrator.
To address recruitment and retention issues with specific job titles per the ratified contract, the agreement also establishes an Equity Fund jointly run by DC 37 and the City.
In 2018, the previous contract created a Pay Equity Panel. The panel plays a vital role in negotiations with the City to achieve pay equity for specific titles. Since its establishment, the panel addressed salary inequities for union public workers in 26 titles, successfully resolving pay equity issues involving City titles in multiple cases. As with the success of the Pay Equity Panel, the Equity Fund is a vital component of the union’s commitment to achieving equality of pay and treatment for all its members.
In another important win, the City agreed to commit an additional $50 per member per year toward the DC 37 Health & Welfare Fund to support continuing benefits.
On May 26, an Additional Compensation Fund contribution of .50% applies toward Additions to Gross. Unit Bargaining Committees will prioritize increases or create Additions to Gross. These funds are used to allocate longevity pay increases, uniform allowances, assignment differentials, service increments and recurring increment payments for qualified workers.
Education, Engagement Key to Win
The overwhelming support was largely due DC 37’s effort to engage and educate members and nonmembers about the details of the contract.
Throughout the month leading up to the vote on the contract, the union undertook the most significant field operation since before the COVID-19 pandemic. The union held nearly 200 in-person meetings at jobsites across the five boroughs (see pages 6-7).
At a lunchtime meeting on March 22 at a Department of Education facility in Queens where he began his public service career in 1981, Executive Director Garrido spoke for more than an hour, answering members’ questions about the contract and other issues.
Garrido also spoke in detail on the contract at a Facebook Live event on March 27, responding to questions members submitted before the briefing.
The citywide contract covers nearly 90,000 DC 37 members. As PEPtalk goes to press, mayoral agencies and other units covered by the contract are receiving the ratification bonus and retroactive payouts with their regular paycheck. Tentative pay dates are posted on http://www.dc37.net. Members covered by the contract who have specific questions about payment or eligibility should contact their union representative.
DC 37’s fight for a fair and just contract for all continues.
Bargaining negotiations are currently underway with CUNY, which represents nearly 20,000 workers, as well as with several nonprofit and private sector employers and other bargaining units.
The economic contract sets the framework for DC 37 members in units not covered by the citywide agreement. This includes nonprofit and private sector workers, employees at the City University of New York, Emergency Medical Service workers, Fire Protection Inspectors, Urban Park Rangers, Traffic Enforcement Agents Levels III and IV, members of Locals 1359 and 1931, and prevailing rate titles. Also separate from this agreement are workers at the School Construction Authority, the Unified Court System, New York Law School, and Sodexo.