Queens Public Library: 100% Union

Hyslop

From left: DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido, Local 1321 President John Hyslop and Chris Wilgenkamp, the union’s director of technology and membership services, celebrate a successful drive to sign up Queens Public Library workers in the union. Photo by Mike Lee.

By GREGORY N. HEIRES

The Queens Public Library is now wall-to-wall union.

On June 6, Queens Library Guild Local 1321 President John Hyslop presented DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido with the last two membership cards the local needed to represent 100 percent of the workers eligible for membership.

For months, Hyslop, Local 1321 Executive Vice President Margaret Gibson and other executive board members worked with union reps Cynthia Keyes-Padilla and Leo Morris to enroll members at the library’s 62 sites.

“This was a great way to meet and talk with members, who we found were generally very supportive of the union’s mission,” Hyslop said. “What we learned will help us be more responsive to members’ needs.”

Chris Wilgenkamp, director of technology and membership services, said the Local 1321 drive reflects precisely what the union hopes to accomplish with its DC 37/AFSCME Strong project — encouraging more members to identify with the union and become more involved in its direction.

Local 1321 launched its campaign after Hyslop discovered that there was a language concern with the Local 1321 cards. To protect the interests of each of his members and the local as a whole, he committed to reach out to each of his members, explain the issue and seektheir recommitment to Local 1321.

Hyslop said he felt a sense of urgency because the U.S. Supreme Court was to rule on the Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association case, which threatened to cripple unions financially by allowing agency fee payers in local unions not to pay their fair share while benefiting from the union contract and from union services. In May, the court deadlocked on Friedrichs.

Last year, in anticipation of a ruling against the California teachers union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees — DC 37’s national union — decided to promote and establish with each of the affiliates, a nationwide campaign to sign up agency-fee payers.

The DC 37/AFSCME Strong program has converted thousands of agency fee payers to members. Under the program, the DC 37 Organizing Dept. is setting up Member Action Teams of rank-and-file members to heighten the union’s presence in the workplace.

Besides Local 1321, about 15 other union locals reached 100 percent membership and many more are approaching the 100 percent goal.

“Our effort to organize agency-fee payers is part of our long-term goal to make DC 37 a more vibrant union,” DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido said. “Unions are under attack as never before. The labor movement is the last powerful barrier standing in the way of right-wing interests, who want to strip away worker protections and kill off unions.”

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