By ALFREDO ALVARADO
The increase in “right to work” legislation being passed around the country, the threats to immigrants and the upcoming constitutional convention vote in November were some of the urgent issues DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido addressed during his welcoming remarks at the union’s first organizing summit.
“They say New York is not Wisconsin and it can’t happen here, but I’m not so sure,” said Garrido, referring to the union-busting legislation introduced in Wisconsin by Gov. Scott Walker. Garrido shared his comments at the Feb. 11 summit for union activists sponsored by the DC 37 Organizing Dept.
Encouraged by Walker’s success in Wisconsin, anti-union activists around the country are working hard to introduce similar union-busting legislation in other states, Garrido said. “Wages in Wisconsin are down and raises are capped, thanks to Scott Walker,” said.
Garrido also conducted a lengthy question and answer session with the activists and emphasized the need to step up to the challenge represented by the rise of anti-union activism and an upcoming possible Supreme Court decision that could rule against unions by eliminating the requirement that non-members pay union dues because they receive union services. Garrido called this development “our defining moment.”
The activists also got a crash course on what’s at stake with the proposed constitutional convention which will be on the ballot on Election Day in November. Every 20 years, New York voters are asked whether the state should hold a constitutional convention. DC 37 advocates voting against it.
“Our pensions, worker’s compensation, collective bargaining and competitive civil service exams are all at stake,” said Krystel Momplaisir, an analyst from the union’s Political Action and Legislative Dept.
Changes adopted at the convention would open the door to possible reductions in public services and pension benefits. “We’re also talking about a convention that would cost taxpayers $300 million,” Momplaisir told the activists.
Michelle Young is a member of Clerical-Administrative Employees Local 1549 and was one of the 100 activists who attended the Saturday meeting. Like many members, Young was not familiar with the issues around the constitutional convention.
“I would have voted
in favor of it if I hadn’t come to this conference,” said Young, who works at the New York Police Dept.
Barbara Terrelonge, director of the DC 37 Organizing Dept., said she was very encouraged by the enthusiasm of the activists. “I saw a lot of new faces, younger and more diverse,” said Terrelonge, of the first Member Action Team conference.
The Organizing Dept. will be holding more training sessions beginning on April 4.