A New Approach to Labor-Community Alliances

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During Harlem Week this summer, DC 37 activists urged people to sign a petition to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, urging his to sign legislation that would improve funding for safety-net hospitals.

By RAUL RODRIGUEZ

A great labor union stands up for its members, for all workers, and for the communities in which working families live.

That’s the clear, simple, driving principle behind Executive Director Henry Garrido’s push earlier this year to create a DC 37 Office of Community Partnership.

DC 37 has a rich history with, and within, New York City communities. We have long championed programs meant to lift all New Yorkers out of poverty, bring equality to education, and keep our neighborhoods safe.

But at a time in our city and country when the gap between the haves and the have-nots has exploded into a Grand Canyon of economic inequality, it is more important than ever for DC 37 to help build a progressive agenda for New York by uniting with (among others) civic organizations, ministers, students, health-care advocates, seniors and the hardworking men and women who struggle to make ends meet in New York.

Building these relationships should not be exclusive to DC 37. Unions across the city need to reach out beyond their own memberships to address issues that concern the broader community.

This “Labor to Neighbor” approach can help re-set this city’s priorities with an ambitious agenda that includes:

• Increasing voter registration,
• Helping families manage student debt,
• Pushing for more affordable housing,
• Addressing environmental issues;
• Enhancing social services, and
• Supporting immigrant families.

There are very wealthy individuals and influential corporations who see our metropolis as their own personal piggy bank.They push to have their taxes cut, which shrinks vital public services such as hospitals. Their neighborhood, development plans have displaced families and increased the number of homeless working men and
women. And in the past few weeks, they have found a powerful ally in the new president-elect, whose cabinet appointments confirm our worst fears about whose interests his administration will be focused on protecting.

Our goal is to level the playing field with progressive policies that make New York a better city for all. Labor alone can’t do it. But organizing and mobilizing the neighborhoods and communities of our great city will make a tremendous difference.

In the upcoming year, DC 37 members will get updates on events and meetings that will be taking place and I urge you all to participate in any way you can.

I am proud of our membership and it is an honor to serve.

Raul Rodriguez is director of DC 37’s Office of Community Partnership. For nearly 10 years, he was a Parent Coordinator at the NYC Dept. of Education and a Local 372 member.

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