At the Labor Day Parade on Sept. 9, our union concluded the long, hot summer with a powerful message: We stand united at the front of New York City’s labor movement. I want to take a moment to thank everyone who came out in solidarity to march as one, united in purpose, to express our power.
It has been five years since the backwards decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Janus v. AFSCME attempted to water down the power of the collective and undo decades of progress made by unions for workers’ rights. Though the anti-labor movement may have won in Janus, we held the line and have pushed forward major wins for our members and those looking to organize the workplace for the good of their fellows.
Since the Janus decision, we redoubled our efforts to advocate for our members and their families. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we stood as one to continue providing city services to the public and fought every step of the way to protect our members against attempted layoffs. In the aftermath, we forced the City to recognize our efforts, not just by applauding our sacrifices and heroism during one of the darkest moments in recent history, but by securing better wages and the benefits our members told us were essential. We engaged the City at the bargaining table and landed the best economic contract DC 37 has won in decades.
We do not rest. After each success, we celebrate and set our sights on other critical priorities. Why? Because the future is unsettled, and our union must build on everything we have gained. We stay alert and prepared to handle any threat to our hard-won rights.
The City’s recent announcement of agency-wide budget cuts and the implementation of a hiring freeze exemplifies why we must stay vigilant and be ready to fight back.
Budget cuts never occur in a vacuum, particularly in a City grappling with the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenge posed by the influx of asylum seekers. While the latter presents imminent pressures to New York City’s budget, it is irrational to conclude the Mayor’s proposed solution will maintain the same quality and capacity of service delivery the public expects.
We cannot pretend City agencies can carry out the essential work needing to be done with less staff and less funding.
When it comes to serving the public, less is not more. New York City’s public workforce is already down by 20,000 positions, which is why we partnered with the Department of Citywide Administrative Services for 16 successful Hiring Halls over the past eight months. Thousands of jobseekers lined several blocks waiting for their opportunity to join the public service workforce. Hundreds were offered interviews and jobs on the spot.
Cuts to public services fray the lifeline that New Yorkers depend on. Instead of arbitrary cuts, we must invest more to maintain and improve our commitment to our most vulnerable, focus on filling revenue-producing positions, and thoughtfully review redundant workflows and outsourced contracts for inflated spending. Budget cuts, strained staff, and slower service delivery betray the public trust. Once you take those drastic measures, you will never regain that confidence.
Our union is a catalyst for progressive good. Education, services, organizing, and direct action are all tools that allow us to defend ourselves, push back against bad policy, and confront injustice.
With your support and solidarity, we will continue to fight for fully staffed workplaces and the resources needed to carry out the services you provide our communities every day.